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The Courage to Walk in the Door

In my job at Momentum I’m always inspired by the courage and strength that our participants have as they move towards a better life. It’s great coming to work each day knowing people are overcoming challenges and creating a vibrant community with Momentum’s help.
The other thing that is exciting for me lately is my journey as an artist. In 2016 I had my first gallery show and I started doing commissioned artwork regularly. While I knew that I had something unique to offer as an artist, I also knew that I didn’t have a lot of business acumen. My next step was unclear and I felt stuck with so many unknowns ahead of me. I didn’t even know what questions to ask!
Then this spring my colleague Frank suggested I take Business Basics 15, a 15-hour course at Momentum that helps you test the feasibility of your business. It seemed like just what I needed to kick-start my art-based business.
I was also excited about this idea because, for the first time, I would be on the other side of the classroom. I would get to experience first-hand what is it really like to take a Momentum program. So I filled out my application form and waited eagerly for the program to start…
Walking into class the first day was a lot like the first day of school. I asked if I could sit next to Jasmine, a slim and stylish Filipino lady around my age, and luckily she nodded yes. Other students silently came in and found a seat.
Class started with our facilitator, Chas asking each of us to introduce ourselves, tell everyone where we were from and what our business idea was. I was amazed that the business ideas (a health-food restaurant, immigration services and car detailing) were as diverse as the people in the room (my classmates were from the Sudan, Eritrea, Columbia, Iran and many, many other places). I’m a pretty confident person, but I was nervous when it was my turn to talk about my business. It felt like baring a part of my soul and I was relieved when everyone responded positively.
Then we got to work. Chas explained that she would guide us through a feasibility study that would be completed by the end of the course. She cracked a few jokes, laughed at them, and then started leading us through the first section of the thick (gulp!) feasibility template.
One section in the template that stood out to me was understanding the “why” behind your business. Why does your business exist? What are your values, mission and vision?  On a philosophical level what are you offering the world and why does it matter? Hard but good questions every business owner should ask themselves.
We went on to talk about narrowing down your target market and why it’s so crucial to know your customer. Before I knew it the first 3-hour class was over. My head was spinning with ideas. Several classmates talked with me after class, offering suggestions and encouragement. I left Momentum feeling pumped and excited about all the possibilities for my business!
That week I attended two more classes where we drilled down on other “business basics”. I couldn’t believe how supportive everyone was, it was a great environment. Now the wheels were really turning and I knew it was time to put myself out there. I called up a boutique and gallery owner and booked a meeting to show her my art. My adrenaline was rushing, I was nervous, and I also felt confident that it was a great step for me to take.
The next week in class we focused on financials and what it would take to make your business financially sustainable. Chas emailed everyone a spreadsheet tool that made it easy to list expenses, calculate the break-even point, and pinpoint how much you would need to sell. I found out, as Chas said, “the numbers don’t lie!”
By the end of the course, I not only had a list of next steps for my art business (get a business license, set up a website), I was also confident that I could make my business work for me. I was so encouraged and I kept putting myself out there. Now I’m in the process of securing the largest commission I’ve ever had.
Attending a Momentum program showed me a lot of things. My classmates showed me that if you are willing to work hard, having a business is within reach. Chas showed me that being an entrepreneur is not glamorous, but it is satisfying. And perhaps the most memorable thing I learned is just how courageous and how much people have to offer when they walk through Momentum’s doors.

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