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Business owners graduate from FastTrac

LAPLACE — In a year that has been challenging for small business owners across the country, 11 St. John the Baptist Parish entrepreneurs stepped up to the plate and completed the Kauffman FastTrac program to position their businesses for long-term success.

The Fall 2020 graduates were recognized during a ceremony held February 12 inside the St. John Council Chambers. Graduates included Branden Collins with Branden Collins Bail Bonds Inc., Rosanna Crouch with Divine Inspirations Event and Design, Loveless Joseph Graham with Joseph Graham Painting, Patrick Johnson with Comfort Controls LLC, Onica Joseph with Charm N Brace, Kim Kasier with Gator Fencing, Miguel Ramirez with Miguel Ramirez Foods, Gregory Rosary with O.G. Wells Bar-B-Que LLC, Ivory Sanders with Peliclean Exterior Washing Solution LLC, Kendria Spears with 1976 and Linda Temple with Naya’s Cleaning Service LLC.

The FastTrac program is a collaborative effort between St. John Economic Development, Louisiana Economic Development, River Parishes Community College and America’s Small Business Development Center. Ten training sessions introduce small business owners to an array of business topics and networking opportunities. The program is designed for those who have new businesses, those who have been in business less than five years or business owners who have been operating informally or part-time.

Upon completion of the FastTrac program, participants have a completed business plan that can be used to access funding.

Kim Kasier with Gator Fencing thanked program manager Wayne Aucoin for his open-door policy. Kasier found the FastTrac program to be a valuable experience, and he encouraged his peers to recommend it to other small business owners finding their way.

“Going into this program, it was empowering to move past obstacles, move past doubt,” Kasier said. He added that session topics addressed everything from social media to tax management.

“Everything we could possibly think of, they brought it to the table,” he said.

Parish President Jaclyn Hotard delivered the welcome speech and presented certificates during the graduation. Hotard said she strives to bring individuals with small business experience to her administrative team to better assist the entrepreneurs who live and work in the St. John Parish community.

Hotard is extremely proud of the hard work the 11 business owners put forth to complete the FastTrac program despite the challenges of COVID-19.

“If you’ve never had to sign the front of a check, you don’t understand what small business owners are actually going through,” Hotard said. “Members of my key staff that I’ve brought on have run small businesses, because it’s important to me that we have folks at the table that understand exactly what small business owners are going through when you’re just trying to keep the lights on, make payroll and not have to shut your operation down. This is not where everything ends. I want you to please continue to utilize all the resources that are available to you. Please use my office as a resource and the small business center as a resource.”

She added, “I have no doubt that you will continue to build upon your successes with everything that you’ve learned through the Kauffman FastTrac program.”

The St. John Parish Economic Development Department also thanked HP and Executive Director Marina Biragova of the Southern University Law Center Technology and Entrepreneurship Clinic for the generous donation of printers for each graduate.

Biragova said Southern University is another resource available to help small businesses grow in a sustainable way.