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Help available for small businesses

STEUBENVILLE — Paramount Pursuits is offering city residents a chance to find out more about its “Thrive in Steubenville” business development program.

Paramount has scheduled a virtual information session for noon Thursday at bit.ly/thriveohinfo to help would-be entrepreneurs, as well as those with an existing business struggling to survive because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s intended to provide potential participants with information about the program,” Urban Projects Director Chris Petrossi said.

Thrive is a 12-month incubator program “designed to break barriers to entrepreneurship and facilitate the growth” of fledgling businesses. The program is designed to help entrepreneurs build a foundation for their business, create business and marketing plans, provide digital marketing assistance, understand financials and identify and obtain funding and networking.

Urban Mission is partnering with Paramount, which will work out of the War Memorial Building.

“Paramount will be using our facility as a home base,” said the Rev. Ashley Steele, Urban Mission’s executive director. “This program is tailored for people who need additional layers of support starting out. It’s one of those opportunities that doesn’t happen very often but it’s available now and we want people to take advantage of it.”

Steele said Paramount has been “very mindful” of existing programs in the community.

“One of the first calls they made, they wanted to know who we are, what we’re about,” she said, adding the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, United Way and other organizations were part of the conversation.

“Really, they’re trying to engage with a number of partners in the community, see what is already happening. I think their hope is to build from that and provide one-on-one support for individuals who have a dream, who want to see their vision enacted in the community.”

She said the incubator and mentorship programs have the potential to be life-changing.

“What we see a lot of, folks who come through the food pantry, our shelter — they have gifts, skills, abilities, vision, they have all those things already. That’s who God created us to be. It’s just helpful to have a network of support around them. People are willing to do the work, they just need guidance on how to start a business and how to keep it going. It’s all about possibilities … people and places and the chance to really build (a future).”

Petrossi said they’ve already had applicants, telling members of City Council earlier this week there are already eight people on the list. To be eligible, he said applicants must be Steubenville residents and the business they operate or want to operate must be based within city limits.

Applicants also must meet income guidelines.

“I’m really excited about this program,” 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna said. “I hope it’s a catalyst. And if it helps one person, (it will be a win for Steubenville).”

The city signed the contract with Paramount in mid-October, and since then the Ambridge, Pa., company has been working on a program policies and procedures manual. Thrive is going to cost the city $159,946, with the money coming from federal CARES Act funds channeled through Steubenville’s Community Development Block Grant program.

Participants will receive one-on-one mentoring sessions designed to provide them access to resources, accountability and support, as well as monthly educational seminars and networking opportunities.

“I think it will be a great incubator program for the city,” Villamagna said. “I think it will have great results. There are eight people, I believe, on the list already and several more are interested in signing up. Hopefully, it will ( help ) some of the smaller businesses (address) problems they’re having and also encourage some people who’ve been wanting to start a business but really don’t know what to do or how to go about it. I’m really hoping that’s what we accomplish, that it makes them feel a little bit more comfortable and Steubenville economically stronger.”

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