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As many of us remember, the St. Andrew’s supportive association with Natasha Kirsch’s entrepreneurial start-up, EPEC (Empowering the Parent to Empower the Child) began in 2014. Since the first dog grooming class started in 2016, EPEC has graduated two classes totaling 10 graduates. The staff running this six-month dog grooming and life skills program consists of three full-time, including a Director of Grooming, one part-time, one intern and about 30 volunteers. Cost per student for the program is $11,000, money coming from donations and grants. As exciting and successful as all of this has been to date, there is even more excitement to report for 2017.
The first piece of this new excitement is EPEC’s selection as a finalist in a competition called “One Million Cups” sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation as a sub-set of their “Zero Barriers” campaign aimed at facilitating the processes thereby enabling entrepreneurs to execute their start-up ideas in the market place. Natasha presented EPEC to the foundation last June, and finalists were selected last October. Finalists received a $5000 grant and a two-day trip to Washington, D.C. to meet senators working to find new ways to support new entrepreneurs.
Missouri Senator Roy Blunt and his staff welcomed Natasha. Natasha has identified federal and state job training money that funnels through local job hubs. Our local hub is the Full Employment Council. Because FEC is not allowing access for new training organizations, EPEC needed to look elsewhere for funding. Navigating these systems can be tricky, and Sen. Blunt’s office offered their DC labor staffer to assist. Natasha also spent the week with The Kauffman Foundation learning about market gaps in entrepreneurship the foundation seeks to address. The Grooming Project is researching a Mobile Grooming Incubator that may contribute to new growth in 2018.
From the retail aspect of the EPEC business, Natasha has partnered with a similar start-up, non-profit in India from whom she will import leashes, collars and scarves for customers. Buying these products supports impoverished Indian mothers to earn a living wage while supporting our moms in Kansas City. The Welch Foundation has donated the seed money needed for business development on this idea, and EPEC will launch an online crowd funder next month to gauge interest in these new products.
Most fascinating about all of this terrific success is seeing how a relatively simple concept of helping people to learn skills qualifying them for good paying jobs leads to numerous connections in the development of a right-now, sustainable business with strong growth potential for the future. Congratulations, Natasha Kirsch, on your imaginative successes to date! We look forward to seeing and supporting what’s next!