Tahisia Scantling has had a vision for as long as she’s been working for the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation (BBIC): More entrepreneurs and more black-owned businesses in St. Pete’s African American community.
Scantling identifies the lack of generational entrepreneurship as a missing piece in the education of those who aspire to own or run their businesses in the city. “I meet clients that don’t need access to capital; they need access to information and training,” she said. “That was one of my biggest concerns. Even if funding is provided to them, most of the time they’re not even ready to begin working with it.”
That’s why Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation (TBBBIC) launched CATCH (Coachable, Action-oriented, Timely, Collaboration, Help) in 2016. The 15-week small business training program is part of a larger mission to provide economic empowerment to small minority companies.
CATCH offered classes on topics such as time management, tax preparation and agenda planning.
The first cohort of the program developed mission statements and vision boards and acquired technical skills such as how to use Quickbooks and Facebook as networking and collaboration tools.
Upon completion, a $2,500 check was handed out to each the cohort’s 10 participants who completed the program.
Knowing what to do with that check and how to deal with money as the entrepreneurs launch their business is one reason the CATCH program dedicates extensive time to financial education. Experts and CPAs train students to manage balance sheets and income statements.
Scantling describes the program as inversive and expansive. Not only do the participants gain quintessential skills, they’re reminded of the importance of lasting education. Notable past graduates include Tracy Dancil, CEO of Urban Agency Staffing Consulting, LLC, Mark W. Jackson, owner of Certified Computer Repair, and Karina Mobley, CEO of Kay’s Seafood and More, a catering company.
Two years after its founding, CATCH’s impact drove Scantling and the TBBIC to launch an extension of the program for ages 17 to 24, called 2020 CATCH Lite Program. It began last April.
Upon completion of the nine-week training program, the 14 young entrepreneurs who applied this year competed in a Shark Tank-eque competition, and presented their business action plan. They also received a $2,000 stipend to invest in their business.
The competition, explained Scantling, served as a gateway for more funding and business connections for its members. “One of the judges was so impressed by one of the winners he provided an additional $250 out of his pocket as an honorary mention,” she said.
Another young entrepreneur made a connection with a judge to invest in her business: An after-school transportation service for children called Served Class Adventures.
The CATCH Lite Program received funds from Bon Secours Health Systems and is part of the city’s 2020 Vision plan to support “micro” and small business growth.
Scantling encourages clients to adopt CATCH’s mission of collaboration as much as they can outside of the classroom. Often she has witnessed partnerships and community connections come out of the training. René Edwards, a 2016 graduate of the CATCH program became the first African American to sell her products at the St. Pete Store and Visitor Center in downtown St. Pete.
Private funding and increasing demand allow CATCH to offer up to eight classes every year. Although the modules and training haven’t changed since CATCH launched, the initial stipend of $2,500 was substituted with the option of a loan application up to $5,000.
“This will allow for a more continuous process,” Scantling explained. “Clients will be able to have access to capital and know-how to pay it back after receiving the training – which to me is the most important part.”
As applicants and graduates recommend the current programs to friends and family, Scantling – a former banker with a master’s degree in government contracts and administration – is designing a more advanced class module as an extension to CATCH.
The new business training program will give past South St. Petersburg graduates the opportunity to enhance their entrepreneurial skills, and keep their business running. With support from TBBIC, Scantling plans to launch the new business training program, called CATCH UP, in the first quarter of 2019.
She hopes that CATCH, Lite 2020, and CATCH UP will facilitate access to business education at every stage. “Having the opportunity to be exposed to and know about this information is inspirational and needed in our community,” Scantling said.
“I tell the president and CEO of Tampa Bay BBIC that when he first put me in charge of this project, I already knew it could be so much bigger than we had envisioned.”
Business owners and entrepreneurs can start applying to join the next group of CATCH participants by downloading an application at tampabaybbic.com.