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Elevate recognizes achievements of first group of entrepreneurs

Elevate recognizes achievements of first group of entrepreneurs


MATTOON — Entrepreneur Latonya Davies’ business is all about taking care of dogs, cats and other pets in the comfort of their homes while their owners are away.

“I focus on easing the minds of pet parents,” the Charleston resident said of All For Them-Latonya's Pet Care Services.

When Davies needs to ease her mind and get office work done away from her busy home, she said the Elevate Cross County Innovation Center in Mattoon offers quiet space with 24-hour access.

Elevate, which opened last spring in the Cross County Mall, recently recognized the achievements of Davies and four other members of this nonprofit business development center who are among the first entrepreneurs to use its support services.

The other honorees at the inaugural Elevate Celebration of Innovation and Growth were Katie Haifley, Keegan O'Connell, Amy Patrick and Evie Rudibaugh.

Executive Director Carlos Ortega said Elevate values the success of its members and wants to do as much it can to support their efforts to ultimately go into business for themselves.

“(Elevate) hopes to encourage, connect and grow small and startup businesses in the region by creating a mixed-use co-working space that provides resources and opportunities to empower success,” Ortega said.

Davies said those resources include mentorship free of charge from accountants, attorneys, marketers and other local business professionals.

“You can get all of your questions answered without having to hire someone and take that extra expense,” Davies said.

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She is researching opportunities for taking her pet care services farther afield now that she has Pet Sitters International certification. She also plans to start a nonprofit so she can apply for grants for her animal rescue work.

O'Connell, of Charleston, has used the Kiva Crowdsourcing Loan Program via Elevate’s partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corp. Rural nonprofit.

Ortega said this $5,000 loan will enable O’Connell to further expand the services of his Buzzed & Board Media production company and to hire employees.

Rudibaugh, of Charleston, registered her Peace of Mind Home Services business with the Elevate team's help. She found inspiration for her home care services business while taking part in the ClassE Coles County high school entrepreneurship class.

Elevate began hosting ClassE sessions last fall at its facility in formerly empty office space that was renovated with the help of $325,000 in Google Impact Challenge grant funding.

Patrick, of Mattoon, was the first graduate of Elevate’s' 6 Step Program, a course that teaches entrepreneurs how to start a business by completing a half dozen preparatory tasks first. She is now operating her Amy Patrick Life & Wellness education business online.

Haifley, of Mattoon, was the first member of the business development center to graduate from the Elevate-Lake Land College Initiative.

Ortega said Lake Land has provided 15 tuition waivers to full members of Elevate. He said this partnership helps entrepreneurs get the knowledge they need to start their business while easing their financial burden.

Haifley, 19, who earned a business development certificate from Lake Land, said she appreciated the help with her tuition cost. She said Elevate also provided her with a quiet place to study and with mentorship on business development goal setting. She hopes to open a coffee shop and live music venue someday.

“I feel I have a foundation I can utilize later on to start that business,” Haifley said.

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Rob Stroud is a reporter for the JG-TC, covering the city of Mattoon, Lake Land College, Cumberland County and areas including Oakland, Casey and Martinsville.

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