The former VFW Hall (Veterans of Foreign Wars) in Garwood is nearly unrecognizable since its transformation into a 3,000-square-foot creative, cooperative community art space. Founded by Sharon Reed, an award-winning oil painter and daughter of an art teacher, South Avenue Arts, which opened in September 2016, includes two semi-private studios and a large shared co-working studio to rent, art classes for all ages – adults and kids, summer camp for kids, and a gallery selling local art, jewelry and gifts.
Reed, who has been drawing and painting for as long as she can remember, did not initially pursue a career in art, but instead followed a more conventional career in business. After she earned her MBA from Rutgers and launched her career, Reed realized she longed for more fulfilling pursuits. She left her job, and while studying at the New York School of Interior Design, returned to her creative endeavors and began painting professionally.
When Reed enrolled in Entrepreneurship 101, a six-week workshop for small business startups available through a partnership between the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) and UCEDC, a nonprofit economic development corporation, she was already well on her way of realizing her dream of starting a creative art space. Armed with a vision of a community-oriented location where she could offer art lessons, studio rentals and exhibitions, but struggling with a detailed plan for operating a sustainable business, Reed attended Entrepreneurship 101 in the fall of 2015.
In less than a year, South Avenue Arts has grown to employ five instructors in addition to Reed, and has expanded its offerings to include classes in anime and manga, a Japanese style of cartooning popular with teens and children.
“The Entrepreneurship 101 workshop and ongoing coaching with my UCEDC business mentor have really helped me turn my vision into a viable business,” said Reed. “It’s very rewarding to be able to offer budding artists a collaborative, supportive environment, and to see the community so whole-heartedly embracing South Avenue Arts.”
Entrepreneurship 101 guides business owners, sometimes those with just an idea in their heads, through the early stages of the entrepreneurial process, with the goal of providing the tools needed to give a business idea the best possible chance of survival.
“Almost everyone has had the idea of starting their own business at some point,” said UCEDC President Maureen Tinen. “What separates the successful ideas from the ones that fail is the due diligence performed in the early stages to realistically determine if the business can succeed.”
The EDA has a strategic partnership with UCEDC to increase the array of training and technical assistance services available to entrepreneurs and small businesses in the State.
Accompanied by Tinen, EDA Chief Executive Officer Melissa Orsen visited South Avenue Arts today, to raise awareness of resources available to small businesses throughout the state. The EDA offers a range of lending programs to provide access to low-cost financing for small and mid-sized businesses in New Jersey, and through its partnership with UCEDC, supports entrepreneurial development by providing access to training and mentoring programs.
“It’s exciting to see firsthand how the EDA’s partnership with UCEDC is providing valuable, practical training that’s helping talented entrepreneurs become savvy business owners,” said Orsen. “New businesses mean new jobs, as well as interesting enterprises like South Avenue Arts that foster thriving communities.”
Entrepreneurship 101 participants are guided through a real-world assessment of their business idea and market feasibility, as well as their own ability to handle the demands of business ownership. The steps to opening a business in New Jersey, choosing a legal structure, developing a business plan and establishing cost, revenue and cash flow projections are addressed in a variety of interactive exercises.
In addition to Entrepreneurship 101, UCEDC offers a wide variety of free and low-cost training workshops on financial and business literacy for business owners at all stages of maturation, and also offers a range of financing vehicles. In 2016, UCEDC trained or mentored more than 2,000 entrepreneurs, conducted 123 business training workshops, and provided $3.8 million in loans to 87 small businesses, 78 percent of which were minority- or woman owned enterprises.
Information on South Avenue Arts is available at www.southavenuearts.com, or follow @southavenuearts on Instagram and Facebook.
To learn about EDA resources for small businesses and not-for-profits, visit www.njeda.com/lending and follow @NJEDAWasHere on Twitter and LinkedIn.
For more information on UCEDC please visit www.UCEDC.com and follow @ucedc on Twitter and Linkedin, or visit UCEDCNJ on Facebook.