E-HUB program gives boost to small businesses

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Jason Smathers
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
— For 12 years, Luisa Verheijen dreamed of designer shoes.

Not Prada or Gucci.


Verheijen developed a unique idea—high-heeled shoes with interchangeable and adjustable designer straps.

But her dream kept getting put on hold. She lost her job in Holland, went through a divorce and picked up a 9-to-5 job.

“And so it stayed for 12 years in the closet,” Verheijen said. “When I see all the shoes on the market … I could have done something!”

But this year, she got a boost from a local group of mentors and advisors helping her and others like her bring business ideas to fruition.

E-HUB is a six-week instructional program that originated in Green Bay and is aimed at providing resources, inspiration and connections to start a small business or reboot an existing one.

Students learn the nuances of small business licensing, insurance, financing and law from community experts who serve as volunteer mentors. This is its inaugural year in Rock County. Four classes have been taught so far—two in Beloit and two in Janesville.

“It’s grassroots economic development. It’s from the lowest level,” said Eric Kuznacic, business and employer services manager for Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development, which helped develop the program.

Rock County’s program, led by UW-Whitewater’s Small Business Development Center, is mostly targeted at dislocated workers. For that reason, Workforce Development covers the $250 tuition for about 58 percent of the students.

Some students, such as Verheijen and Ken Osborn, simply wanted the ability to pursue their ideas while keeping their day jobs.

Osborn started computer repair and sales company, TechnoBytes, out of his home 10 years ago while working a full-time job, but he never earned a wage. After taking the E-HUB course, Osborn decided to market his computer repair and purchasing services specifically to seniors.

“I’ve seen the idea that a business plan had to be put together, and I didn’t know how to do it,” Osborn said. “And when this opportunity came up … I jumped on it.”

The two were designated as “top achievers” of the program based on their completed business plans. Both will be given $200 to help advance their enterprises.

Osborn plans to slowly build his target market and services over time. Verheijen plans to unveil her shoes at trade shows in Las Vegas in August or February.

Last updated: 2:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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