Tri-Lakes nonprofit reaches out to help furloughed workers explore new paths

by SUZANNE EVANS suzanne.evans@gazette.com - Published: July 25, 2013 | 4:00 pm 0

Some civilian defense workers are trying to cope with being furloughed. Others are preparing for the worst - a reduction in force.

With an uncertain future, they're all looking at their options - and the Tri-Lakes Business Incubator is reaching out to help them. Every Monday and Friday, the nonprofit is opening its membership facilities to furloughed government employees to help them carve a new path.

"I think it's pretty evident that people are going to be looking at alternatives," said Allison Brown, president and founder of the Tri-Lakes Incubator. "Government employees might be interested in other career options: either starting their own business or becoming a franchise owner."

Brown, whose home-based business became a successful aerospace company, said she wants to provide business start-up support to furloughed workers, as well as to expand the number of local small businesses to increase employment in the Tri-Lakes and Monument area.

Tri-Lakes Business Incubator approached members and local business owners to find volunteers to help with the program, which includes free business start-up classes.

The first series of classes will be taught by Terrance Boult, El Pomar Professor of Innovation and Security, who teaches business innovation at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The schedule has not been set.

"We're going to teach them the processes of lean startup methodology," said Boult. That methodology includes how to start a business with little money, evaluate ideas, communicate those ideas to friends and family, get feedback before investing too much, handle taxes and cash flow, and ultimately build the company.

"These people now have lost 20 percent of income," said Boult. "They either have to find new jobs or deal with a lower income, or use the fact that they have Fridays off to help supplement their income."

Boult's classes are geared toward informing people of the commitment, time and investment required to start a small business. The series will be the first of several that will run until the furloughs end in September.

The Small Business Development Center is also working with the Incubator to set up workshops.

"You have to start somewhere and you have to learn about how you do that," said Aikta Marcoulier, the center's executive director. The classes won't necessarily draw government workers out of their jobs, said Marcoulier, but will give an opportunity for them to think about their future.

The Tri-Lakes Business Incubator is not the only company offering services and benefits to furloughed employees. The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance's "Furlough Friday" discount program has grown to include 14 businesses, up from eight that initially signed on to offer deals to furloughed workers. For a list of participating businesses and the deals being offered, go to www.coloradospringsbusinessalliance.com.

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