Hot product: Classes for entrepreneurs

Tricia Hunter says there is a very good reason she chooses to run her own business.

"I am unemployable," she laughs. "I have tried several times working for other people and I always walk away saying 'You guys don't have a clue!'"

Hunter, who has owned 13 businesses in the past three decades, is among a growing cadre of teachers at Truckee Meadows Community College who will be imparting their experience this spring to others who may be looking to start a fulltime business or create something to supplement their incomes.

TMCC's non-credit continuing education course program has rapidly expanded its offerings for would-be entrepreneurs.

It is definitely a trend, says TMCC's Kathleen Berry, marketing manager for the workforce development and continuing education arena.

"Our division is designed to quickly respond to the community's changing needs, and we have seen a significantly increased interest in noncredit entrepreneurial courses, whether it is to start a new business or supplement one's income on the side," she says.

Berry says the recession that has put millions of Americans on the job sidelines, and others who nervously fear the day of the pink slip, has definitely spawned a trend toward classes that many hope will help them bring in extra income.

Last year, TMCC scheduled several classes for people to learn how to create their own Web site. All immediately filled up. So, this spring, the school has increased its offering of entrepreneurial-related classes by 43 percent over the same period two years ago.

The titles speak for themselves. How to turn your crafts into cash. Home-based businesses for under $1,000. Become a successful online entrepreneur. Fearless self employment. Make money using blogs and other social networking tools. The list goes on.

Hunter and her husband, Barry, used to live in California where they ran several small businesses.

"We left because we couldn't make a profit because of state income tax, permits, fees and licenses and such. Every time you turned around, there was another cost. Today, we run a cat boarding business out of our home in Verdi called Hideout Cattery. We used to own Cozy Cattery, but we sold it to a nonprofit feline rescue here in northern Nevada," Hunter says.

She will be teaching three three-hour blocks in March at TMCC's Meadowood Center on the topic, "Fearless Self Employment." The first segment, she says, will talk about how to get started with little or no money.

"I want to help people identify those fears that hold them back. Next, we'll talk about things they have done in their life, their life experiences and skills. What do you have in your home you can use? And then, we show them how to forge ahead," Hunter says. "Marketing yourself is big. If people don't know you are out there, they won't use your service or product. And, finally, there is what I call the fear of failure and the fear of success. I'll show them how to handle both."

Justin Hertz, another of the TMCC teachers, has started, operated, and sold three companies in his life. The 38-year-old recently sold the majority interest in a company he began called "We sold everything for dogs online except for food," he says. "It existed for six years before I sold, and I am still advising the new owners."

Hertz will focus in March on using the Internet to create a business. "You have to have some fears about the things you do when you run a business, understand the risks you take," he says. "You are not human if you are not afraid. In the online world, I did things in a calculated manner, but even then, there are missteps. The thing most entrepreneurs won't admit is that success in the business world comes often from a series of accidents."

He cites as one example the time he was inventorying rawhide dog bones that he was selling online to some 500 small pet stores across the nation. He had difficulty getting rid of the entire inventory. So he used the Costco pricing model and, instead of selling rawhide bones for $5 or $6 each, he sold them in packages of 20 or 40 on eBay. "One year later, I had cleared out my inventory," he says.

Asked if he can tell who in one of his classes is likely to pursue creation of a business, Hertz said usually he can. "You get a sense whether people have a bona fide plan based on the questions they ask," he says. "People are nervous about job security, but I tell them that when you own your own company, no one is going to fire you except you. We talk less about the economy and more about total focus on their product or service."


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