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St. Louis County Library program to offer formerly incarcerated people business skills

The St. Louis County Library offers programs to help formerly incarcerated people with legal and social services. Beginning in August, the library will launch a small business program for formerly incarcerated people who are interested in starting a business. The Small Business Launchpad will offer business financing courses, assistance with business pitch decks and help with marketing materials.
St. Louis County Library
The St. Louis County Library in August will launch a program for formerly incarcerated people who are interested in starting a business.

The St. Louis County Library is launching a small-business program to help formerly incarcerated people in the region learn how to become entrepreneurs.

The Small Business Launchpad, which starts in August, will provide 12 participants with business planning workshops and expert-led sessions about business financing. The program also will teach people how to develop business ideas, understand pricing and prepare marketing materials.

Getting a job after being incarcerated is difficult, so learning about entrepreneurship could help people find another way to success, said Megan Phifer-Davis, St. Louis County Library reference department manager.

With your own business, she said, “you get to work towards something that you are excited to do every day."

The county library received a $3,500 grant from the Missouri Library Association to fund the six-month program at the library’s Natural Bridge branch.

People who come out of prison have a hard time obtaining business loans from banks, Phifer-Davis said.

To help participants overcome that barrier, the program will allow them to consult with Grow with Google business and online training, Great Southern Bank, the financial planning company Justine Petersen and others on how to manage personal and business finances. The institutions also will suggest ways participants can find financial support.

Business pitch sessions will help participants introduce their companies to potential funders at the end of the program.

Learning how to start and grow a business could help formerly incarcerated people gain more economic opportunities, said county library CEO Kristen Sorth.

“We want to give them the resources and tools and experiences so that they can make a new life for themselves and so they don't go back into a correctional facility,” she said.

The program also will provide people with free Chromebook laptops and a hotspot to connect to the internet. A variety of business databases and reference guides will be available to help people analyze competitors and read up on industry data.

“My hope is at the end that they will have built a business idea that they're excited about, and have created that business plan that they can go into,” Phifer-Davis said. “The biggest skill I want them to have is that entrepreneurial mindset, but also the understanding that they can be a leader.”

Program applications are due by June 30.

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.