(Left to Right) Earl “Skip” Cooper, Pres/CEO BBA; Barbara J. Stanton, Pres/CEO Wattstar; Theresa L. Jones, Founder/Dir, “A New Direction”; Pam Bizell, VSEDC, Farid Haqq VSEDC
(Left to Right) Earl “Skip” Cooper, Pres/CEO BBA; Barbara J. Stanton, Pres/CEO Wattstar; Theresa L. Jones, Founder/Dir, “A New Direction”; Pam Bizell, VSEDC, Farid Haqq VSEDC

The Wattstar Entrepreneur Collaborative (WEC) a coalition comprised of the Watts Cinema and Education Center (WCEC), the Black Business Association (BBA), Pacific Coast Regional (PCR), the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (VSEDC) and Southland Partnership, Inc. (SPI) has announced the certification of twenty-eight minority entrepreneurs committed to developing small businesses to spark economic development in the Watts/Wiillowbrook communities.

The entrepreneurs were selected among the hundreds attending a summer series of free business seminars conducted in the Ted Watkins Memorial Park Auditorium, targeting entrepreneurs who live within the Watts/Willowbrook communities. The goal was to inform residents of small business opportunities and available resources. They were put through three months of intensive entrepreneur training and the development of their preliminary business plans.

Once their plans are complete, the students will receive courses on how to finance their small business; micro-loans for eligible applicants and mentoring on how to become eligible. The objective will be to arm them with the tools necessary to be successful; clearly understanding the funds needed for their start-up; and how to attract their own residents to become their customers.

During a commencement ceremony and dinner at Mount St. Mary’s College sponsored by City National Bank, Pacific Western Bank and the Black Business Association (BBA) and a dozen other lending institutions, a diverse group of business men and women stepped forward to receive certification of their preliminary plans to bring goods, services and jobs to the Watts/Willowbrook communities.

Among them – Theresa L. Jones, Founder/Director of A New Direction a board and care facility for women and children; Marvin Horn, Owner, Pro Telecom & Wireless Communications; Jonathan Robinson, Executive Director The Ambassadors of Style Organization with a mission to introduce technology, science, math, and travel to the Watts/Willowbrook communities’ youth; and Vanessa Kontokanis a restaurateur whose long term goal is to bring a “healthy eating” option to the Watts/Willowbrook community by opening Soul Grubb Love Restaurant on the site of the legendary Jordan’s Café.

An evening highlight was the keynote address delivered by Sal Mendoza, Senior VP, City National Bank who reinforced his company’s support and pointed out the presence of a dozen banks who’ve pledged to bring sorely needed economic development programs to the Watts/Willowbrook communities.

The WEC agencies bring a vast amount of knowledge and expertise from conducting years of entrepreneurial training in South Central and other communities. VSEDC focusing on business plan development and potential merchants to locate in Martin Luther King (MLK) Shopping Center (which is currently for sale); the BBA with a 45-year history of successfully focusing on women and minority small business development; PCR, the number one financing entity in Los Angeles for small businesses.