By Alicia Doyle

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Hung T. Vu/Special to the Record Searchlight T. Frank Smith (left) talks to Margaret Johnson of Sacramento at a recent conference that helped people with developmental disabilities and others start small businesses. The Region 2 People First Conference was at the Gaia Hotel in Anderson.


Adventures in Business helps those
with developmental disabilities start enterprises


May 20, 2012
The Record Searchlight

The business owner of Flowers for You since 2007, Dyvonne Washington takes pride in creating still flower arrangements and floral hair pieces, as well as floral pens and pencils.

"Every year my business grows," said Washington, of Palo Cedro. "I want to encourage others with my own positive attitude so they will believe in themselves. I want others to see hard work pays off."

Washington is among nine adults with developmental disabilities involved with Adventures in Business, a program offered through the We Care A Lot Foundation that began in 2006.

"People with developmental disabilities want to work just like you and I," said Katherine Bogue, Adventures in Business coordinator. "Many have a dream of finding a job where they can get off public benefits such as SSI."

Adventures in Business serves people with developmental disabilities in the nine-county catchment area of the Far Northern Regional Center, a fixed point of reference for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

The center is one of 21 nonprofit regional centers in California funded by the California Department of Developmental Disabilities.

"Adventures in Business offers adults with developmental disabilities an opportunity to be self-employed through owning a microenterprise," said Tammy Torum, executive director of the We Care A Lot Foundation. "The business owners have the opportunity to show off their amazing gifts and talents while doing work they love, and hopefully, to make enough money to make to raise their standard of living."

The program involves a business mentor who helps the business owner, as well as a bookkeeper who maintains records for the business owners and helps file and pay taxes.

"Mentors help business owners write business plans and do whatever is necessary to start the business," Bogue said. "After the business is started, mentors teach the business owners how to operate their businesses."

Mentors must have successfully conducted a similar or same business as the one that the business owner they support is conducting. "For example, we have many artists and the mentors hired to support them are artists themselves who sell their art," Torum said.

In Washington's case, she said: "My business mentor, Kathleen Leyden, takes me to shows, helps me prepare flower arrangements, teaches me new techniques and design ideas, and helps with marketing and customer service skills. One thing I am very proud of is that I have created and coordinated an annual Valentine sales event that is held in Palo Cedro."

Washington was inspired to start her business by attending flower shows. "I found that I really enjoyed working with flowers." With that, "my Far Northern Regional Center Service coordinator referred me to We Care A Lot Foundation and their Adventures in Business program," she said.

Looking back on her endeavor so far, "I get great joy in sharing the beauty of flowers with others," Washington said. "My flower arrangements and positive attitude bring smiles to people's faces."

Jack Reyes, of Yreka, owner of Jack's Works, has been involved with Adventures in Business for two years.

"I specialize in abstract art," Reyes said. "I feel I can be a successful business owner. Success means creating art, selling my art at art shows, meeting new people, especially people who paint, and talking to others about art. I want to work my way up the ladder."

Reyes' ultimate goal is "to be a successful painter. I want to make people happy through my art." Through Adventures in Business "I am motivated to work harder. I am aware that there is more for me to do and learn about art and being a successful business owner. I am proud of what I am doing. I create good art that makes people happy."

Other adults involved with the program — ranging from 20 to 50 years old — include Rebekah Amick of Life Art, Marie Blair of Paintings by Marie Blair, TJ Bryant of TJ's Creations, BJ Christianson of BJ's Art Studio, T. Frank Smith of TF Smith Photography, Coby Walters of Pine Meadow Photography and Naomi Rose of Artwork by Naomi Rose.

"People with disabilities are just like everyone else, they want to work, have families and friends, live where they choose, have a sense of belonging and to make a positive difference in the world," Torum said. "They enjoy the same rights as everyone else does, but sadly, there are so many negative stereotypes about them and this often prevents them from having the same opportunities that other adults enjoy."

The ultimate goal "is for the business owners to have meaningful work that they are proud of and to make enough money to make a positive difference in their lives," Bogue said. "We also hope that people in the community will meet these business owners, and change their perceptions of people with developmental disabilities."

For more information about Adventures in Business, call 223-7771 or go to www.wecarealot.org.

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