Local entrepreneurs mobilize for start-ups | New


SOUTH BEND – Local minorities and women receive professional assistance as they pursue their dream of running their own business.

The Hustle SBE is a training camp for people looking for a solid foundation for their new ventures in the 47 communities of Northern India and Southwest Michigan served by the South Bend-Elkhart Regional Partnership .

The program has completed two course cycles with more than 18 companies and 17 graduates. In addition, the program allocated more than $ 10,000 to find local business owners to help budding entrepreneurs develop and improve their business models. The Hustle Program offers a 12-session curriculum that provides many essential resources for these business owners, including certification, financial management, and marketing strategies.

Alonzo Fotography LLC Jess Kasher

Jess Koscher, a member of the Elkhart Regional Partnership’s Diversity and Inclusion Board of Directors, was one of the founding members of the program. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in nonprofit management, Koscher had no business experience until an event in her life brought her into the world of marketing.

“I was fired from my job at the time and within 12 hours I had a full schedule of meetings with people I knew who gave me work,” Koscher said. “It was all the kind of work we do now and got me to come up with the idea of ​​starting my own business.”

In addition to his work with Hustle, Koscher is the owner of Write Connections, which helps local businesses with marketing and business development. Write Connections takes care of everything from building websites for businesses to building brands, print materials, photography, videography, and managing social media platforms. The goal is to help business owners learn to navigate the ins and outs of these marketing strategies on their own.


While working with Write Connections, Koscher was encouraged to bring her ideas to the conversation at Elkhart Regional Partnerships board meetings on diversity and inclusion. As a result, Hustle was created.

“Hustle wants to close the economic gap between people of color and women,” Koscher said. “When we looked at this gap in depth, we noticed that many issues related to the success of women and minorities are simply opportunities. Hustle was born out of this to provide a boot camp for women and minority business owners to come together to learn what they don’t know, to build community and access things they don’t know. might not have had access otherwise.

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Bethany hartley

One of the other creators of Hustle SBE is the Partnership’s Strategy Director, Bethany Hartley. She believes the program is wonderful because it connects business owners.

“Seeing, hearing and being able to observe the growth, as well as being able to open the door for unrepresented people to gain access that may not have existed before, is gratifying to me,” Hartley said. “I almost started crying at the last graduation ceremony, hearing how companies do business with each other and inspire each other. Taking risks is really inspiring to me.


Taking risks is something most childhood business owners fully understand. The uncertainty of stepping away from everything you’ve already known and forging your way onto a new path carries with it the potential for major losses and currency struggles. Still, that’s why advocates for the program say Hustle is thriving fast, as he seeks to help those who need it most to start their businesses with a solid foundation.

“The uncertainty when you start out is really scary, but you have to get out of it,” Koscher said. “You just have to jostle each other every day for it to work. “

One local business owner who participated in the Hustle program was Johan Vasquez, owner of the Guac N Squat food stand in Goshen. He recommends the program to new business owners rather than established businesses simply because of the fundamental approach Hustle SBE takes with its sessions.

“As I work in the food industry, this did not offer me detailed help in regards to my department,” Vasquez said. “It was so broad, but it helped in terms of the fundamentals of the business perspective. It would have been nice to have been easier. I really enjoyed the one-on-one they had, but I think they wouldn’t have been necessary if each group of people had been segmented to answer all of the questions in their field.


According to program staff, understanding that there is a need for improvement and that the future has room for expansions and changes has allowed the program to adapt throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. . The first cohort graduated just before the pandemic, and the second cohort held mostly online due to the virus. As difficult as it has been for many business owners over the past year, Hustle’s staff have found themselves in high demand.

“2020 has been a very good year for us because of the work we do,” Koscher said. “We have helped a lot of clients.

Koscher and Hartley admit that starting and growing your own business is an important leap of faith, especially for minorities who do not have access to the same resources as others. However, they never let that deter them from working hard and asserting their rights in business, and they think no one else should either.

Entering the business world means sacrificing some of your free time and taking risks. Koscher has been a member of the Goshen Clay Artists Guild for over 15 years. She specialized in functional pottery, such as bowls and cups.

“Clay is a process that you have to pay attention to over time; my work schedule has conflicted with this effort, but the guild system in Goshen is still phenomenal and such a welcoming community, ”Koscher said. “I had to quit a lot when my business started. “

Those little joys are always worth the hard work and sacrifice of becoming a business owner, and Koscher hopes her actions can inspire other women to realize their business dreams as well.

“Hustle is this great opportunity for us, minority women and businesses, to come together in a non-threatening and supportive environment and make connections that we might not otherwise have had,” Koscher said. “Being a woman does not put you at a disadvantage and you have the right to go out there and make your dream come true. I think women start off by not thinking that we can’t do this, so sometimes taking a big bite to yourself can sometimes be a challenge.

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