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Bill Dean, a former Peace Corps volunteer and banker teaches a 'Start Your Business'' class
0,7584134.story?coll=all-businesslocal-hed, Bill Dean, a former Peace Corps volunteer and banker teaches a 'Start Your Business'' class
Making a clean start
Miguel Nieves started his own business after moving from Puerto Rico.
By Sam Kennedy
Of The Morning Call
After moving from Puerto Rico to the Lehigh Valley in search of a better life, Miguel Nieves found himself in a job similar to the one he had left: cleaning homes and businesses.
''I was tired of working for other people,'' recalled Nieves, who is 48. ''I decided to make my own business.''
Entrepreneurs are a special breed. Starting a business is risky and demanding under the best of circumstances.
But Latinos such as Nieves, who moved in 1992 and speaks little English, as well as recent arrivals from other parts of the world, face additional hurdles. They must adapt to and negotiate new cultural norms and legal standards, often in a language they do not fully understand.
With occasional help from a translator, Nieves, a thin man with a neatly trimmed moustache, described how he went from working for a cleaning business to running his own, Maldonado Cleaning of Bethlehem.
Today, Nieves has a van full of cleaning equipment — vacuum cleaners and buffers. He has two regular part-time employees, including his son, though he often hires additional hands for special jobs. He serves both residential and commercial clients, including a restaurant and a church.
Much of his time is devoted to answering the phone, bookkeeping and other administrative duties, but he still gets his hands dirty from time to time.
When Nieves gets a new client, he does the cleaning himself, before handing the work over to an employee. That, he said, allows him to understand what the job requires, in time and effort — knowledge that helps him to set fair prices and manage his workers.
Nieves said he doesn't do much advertising. Customers usually hear of him by word of mouth.
''I'm an honest person. I do my job good,'' he said.
After about four years in operation, Nieves said Maldonado Cleaning's annual revenues have grown to ''the low six digits,'' meaning at least $100,000.
In the beginning, however, Nieves had little more than a dream and faith in own abilities. He knew he would have to take certain steps. But what exactly those steps were, he wasn't sure.
The answers would come in a course offered by the Community Action Development Corp. of Allentown, a nonprofit organization that promotes economic development. It was designed specifically for aspiring entrepreneurs and provided special assistance for Spanish speakers.
The subject matter included legal issues, such as licenses and taxes, as well as the more practical. Writing a business plan — with projected revenues, costs and profits — was a prerequisite for graduation.
Bethlehem's Community Action Development Corp., which happens to be one of Nieves' customers, now offers its own ''Start Your Business'' class, which meets for weekly, two-hour sessions for 14 weeks. It's taught by Bill Dean, a former Peace Corps volunteer and banker with a master's degree in business administration.
''What the students have in common is they want to pursue a dream, but they don't know where to start,'' Dean said. ''Everyone has the idea that, 'I can do this.'''
And some, such as Nieves, do.
Copyright © 2004, The Morning Call
| This Month's Issue: August 2004|
Teresa Heinz Kerry celebrates the Peace Corps Volunteer as one of the best faces America has ever projected in a speech to the Democratic Convention. The National Review disagreed and said that Heinz's celebration of the PCV was "truly offensive." What's your opinion and who can come up with the funniest caption for our Current Events Funny?
Exclusive: Director Vasquez speaks out in an op-ed published exclusively on the web by Peace Corps Online saying the Dayton Daily News' portrayal of Peace Corps "doesn't jibe with facts."
In other news, the NPCA makes the case for improving governance and explains the challenges facing the organization, RPCV Bob Shaconis says Peace Corps has been a "sacred cow", RPCV Shaun McNally picks up support for his Aug 10 primary and has a plan to win in Connecticut, and the movie "Open Water" based on the negligent deaths of two RPCVs in Australia opens August 6. Op-ed's by RPCVs: Cops of the World is not a good goal and Peace Corps must emphasize community development.