Standing over her seat, she opened it and looked at it. Then she sat down and studied intently for several minutes.
Later she told a visitor that she couldn’t stopped looking at her “Road to Entrepreneurship” certificate because she was just so proud of herself.
“It’s an accomplishment,” said Tillman, a single mother with four children ages four to 17. “I am glad I made it. I am just ecstatic. It means I can do more than just be at a standstill. It shows me I can do it even with no money.”
Tillman, who lives in Lithonia, was one of 17 women who graduated from the 12-week program. All of them are single mothers and clients of DeKalb County Department of Family & Children Services Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program with their own stories of hardships and perseverance.
Tillman, who has been unemployed for two years and has being getting food stamps and other government help for her family, said this is the first time she has had the opportunity to learn something.
She said in the past, you got a check and that’s it.
“I learned something to assist me in making a life for myself and my kids,” she said.
Tillman said she has been making gift baskets for about two years and want to turn it into a money-making business.
“That’s something I like to do and I want to continue doing it,” she said.
Some of her classmates want to start daycare and property management companies. The program helps aspiring, startup and small business owners with five and fewer employees position themselves for growth. The class taken by Tillman and her colleagues is funded by a $25,000 TANF grant o train welfare recipients interested in going into business for themselves.
Over the 12 weeks, participants explored what it takes to be an entrepreneur, understanding the business model, financial management, conquering credit challenges, managing cash flow for a profitable business, building a business plan and accessing capital for expansion.
She said the program taught her something that will assist her in turning her life around.
“I am going to fix my credit,” she said. “I have credit barriers but I can get beyond it. I am going to get a bank account and once I fix my credit, my business will take off.”
Rod Wallace, the Institute’s director, said the Tuesday graduates bring to 120 the number who have successfully completed the program. He said 18 women from the first three classes have launched their own businesses.
“We are helping these women bridge the gap from where they are. We expose them to different options through self-employment,” Wallace said.
Wallace said the women also get life skills coaching.
“A lot of them have barriers in their life,” he said. “We help them to manage their resources. We have even done classes on upgrading their parenting skills.”
Tillman said the program taught her that there are resources out there to help people like her.
“Now I know that there are people who can help me,” she said. “A lot of my friends don’t know there are people out there to help them.”
Tillman said she now has a road map for the future.
“I have to plan to make progress,” she said. “You have to know where you are going.”