As young children, Jackie Jimenez and her sisters made band instruments out of cardboard boxes and jammed to music on their unique drums and guitars.
“Mom and Dad taught us to work with what we have,” Jimenez recalled.
Fast forward to today and that resourcefulness has helped Jimenez and her sisters, Valerie Young and Christine Griffith, to start their own gift business. Young started off selling inexpensive homemade crafts at a church bizarre and then coaxed her sisters to join forces with her.
The sisters will be among the 70 to 80 vendors who will showcase their products and seek new employees at the Southern Colorado Small Business Development Center’s Small Business Expo and Hiring Event from 10 am to 4 pm Wednesday, May 4, at Pueblo Community College’s student center , 900 W. Orman Ave.
Inexpensive gifts with a homemade touch
The small gifts the sisters offer are a low-cost solution for customers looking for Mother’s Day, graduation, Father’s Day or birthday gifts. They offer everything from refrigerator magnets and dish scrubbers to coin purses and puzzle books, embroidered angel bookmarks and lanyards.
The sisters are making decorative flowerpots with inspirational sayings that will sell for between $5 and $10. They also make some unique sock monkeys, clip-on hand sanitizer holders and sweet treats.
Jimenez’s motto is “if I won’t pay that much for it, I won’t charge that much for it,” she said with a chuckle.
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“I do sewing, painting, wood cutting and make scrapbooking cards,” Jimenez said.
Through her “real” job at the Southern Colorado Small Business Development Center in Pueblo she has learned how to register her business, market online and move much of her “Crafty Creations” sales to an ETSY shop.
“I was so amazed where all of these people saw my work and ordered it online. It was neat to see it going to places like New York, California, Idaho, Texas and Pennsylvania,” she said.
One item, a snowman ornament with a pouch for money or a gift card, flew off the shelves. She sold more than 50 last December.
Besides the sisters’ craft items, the expo will feature dozens of local small businesses selling all sorts of products.
Local employers will recruit workers in a space set aside for on-the-spot interviews, said Brian Estrada, executive director for the Southern Colorado Small Business Development Center.
The event also will include informational and educational presentations. The expo is part of the center’s Small Business Week celebration May 1-7 which includes web classes and the launch of a brown bag lunch series on the first Friday of each month.
How small businesses can get help
The expo is a way for the business development center staff to get the word out about the services the center offers.
“A lot of people don’t know what we do,” Estrada said. “Our mission is to help existing and new businesses to grow and prosper.”
That includes consulting, training and educational resources.
“What’s interesting about our center is we can help new starts or existing businesses that want to scale up or pivot,” Estrada said. “We offer free confidential consulting, education and e-commerce classes, and connect business owners to resources.”
Among those resources are information on places to apply for grants or trainings on how to prepare to talk to a banker about a business loan.
“We can even help business owners who are looking to sell their businesses,” said Carma Loontjer, coordinator.
Pueblo’s small business development center is the only one in the state that has partnered with Southern Colorado Innovation Link to help inventors get their ideas from conception to prototype to patent.
Mark Madic oversees the Southern Colorado Innovation Link program, which became the first startup and tech accelerator program in the region, he said.
“We focus on companies needing support to develop profitable marketable resources, obtain patents or introduce them to companies that will help them raise a nontraditional capital. We get to do a lot of creative early-stage stuff for businesses,” Madic said.
To find out more about the development center or to sign up for a $25 vendor booth at the expo, call 719-549-3245 or log onto southerncoloradosbdc.org.
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Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business news. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at twitter.com/tracywumps.