Jackie Phillips opened The Life Changer Center in Hartford in 2016.
She enrolled in Liberty Bank’s Academy for Small Business program in the spring because she wanted to strengthen her business and learn skills that would help her to better operate her mental health and life empowerment center.
She was able to accomplish her goal through the program.
“Where I was last year to where I am now is like night and day,” she said.
Glenn Davis, first vice president, community development/CRA officer at Liberty Bank, said the Academy for Small Business program is a 10-week class that offers up to a $5,000 credit line for those who successfully complete it. The idea is for students to use the line of credit to launch or help advance their business.
Liberty Bank, headquartered in Middletown, has 62 banking offices throughout the state, including in Plainville.
The program is free but it requires students to have a minimum credit score of 600. To qualify for the credit line students can’t miss a class, can’t have filed for bankruptcy in the past five years, can’t be currently involved in litigation and need to be current on all taxes.
A business plan is encouraged but not required prior to taking the class.
Those who want to take the class for the learning experience and not the line of credit, don’t need to meet all of the financial requirements, Davis said.
The program teaches students about taxes, organizational planning, banking services, time management, credit reporting and more.
“The curriculum is structured to give individuals a good base line on operating a business,” Davis said.
The program also offers networking opportunities, he said.
The program was held about six times in 2021. Each group had about 20 students.
Davis said they typically like to have classes that are racially and ethnically diverse and include low to moderate income participants.
“Liberty Bank is committed to the small business community, especially those diverse communities — African American, Latino, Latina entrepreneurs — and this academy is just one way to facilitate that and to really reach the community to help support these entrepreneurs,” Davis said.
Liberty Bank partners with local organizations such as the Community Economic Development Fund on the instruction of the classes.
Pamella Nazario, owner of D&A Express Transportation, a trucking business out of West Hartford, was in the program in the spring. “This was such a great opportunity for me,” she said. “It was so helpful.”
One of the reasons she participated was because her credit was “not too good,” and it was hard for her to get loans. Nazario’s favorite part of the program was the connections she made with other business owners.
Elmore Ligon, of Meriden, was also part of the program this year. He owns LF Transportation, which transports goods for other business. He has owned the business for about seven months and wanted to learn more about running a business. Understanding a business plan and structuring were some of the things he learned in the program, he said.
“It was great to know that there’s more people out there willing to help you with your business,” he said.
Miguel Castro, a former MidState Chamber of Commerce Board member, said the Academy for Small Business program provides small business owners with opportunity for economic growth and access to resources.
To apply for the programs individuals must file a registration form available at liberty-bank.com.