Black Hawk College Hosts First Business and Entrepreneur Open House | Company

GRETCHEN TESKE

Julie Willey had a problem. And his solution turned into a business – by accident.

When she practiced, she couldn’t find a headband that would stay in place. After trying several options, she decided to create her own. It was supposed to end there, but when friends started noticing the new designs, she made a few for them. This eventually led her to make a batch of it and donate it to a local fundraiser.

After selling, Willey went from stay-at-home mom to entrepreneur when she opened Willey Bandz. In his seven years in business, the biggest problem Willey has faced has been keeping up with demand – a good problem to have.

She got her family involved and reached out to other entrepreneurs in the community to help keep her afloat. Networking and making connections, she says, makes all the difference.

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“Remembering that there are a lot of local resources and support within the community is a good reminder that after seven years, if I come across a rocky spot or am in a fight…there are a lot of resources out there. which I can turn to,” she said.

Willey was just one of many attendees at the first annual Quad-Cities Open House for Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs. Community leaders moderated a roundtable, offering advice and opportunities for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs Friday at Black Hawk College. The event was designed to connect business leaders and entrepreneurs, or aspiring entrepreneurs, with tools and resources.

Loredana Cooper, an advisor to the college, said the idea behind the open house was to stimulate opportunities in the area. Starting a business from scratch is scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

Cooper said “the school is here to help,” and the resources and networking provided Friday were designed to help entrepreneurs help each other.

During a panel discussion, Mark Holloway of the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce said small businesses are critical to the success of the local economy. New ideas and visions are what make a city drive-thru worthy.

“We need your energy and your passion to make Quad-Cities a place where people want to live,” he said. “You have to believe in yourself that what you are doing is important.”

LaQuita Henning of Moline is one such person.

The hopeful young entrepreneur attended the open house to get advice on starting her spa business. Henning came prepared with several drawings of what her building would look like and pictures of the furniture and design it would have if completed.

Henning said having an open house where she could ask questions and find local resources to get things started was invaluable to her.

“I want to see how I can succeed by learning from others and finding the confidence in myself to do that,” she said.

Self-confidence is a theme that Tianna Manley takes and runs with. Her business, T’s Spa & Beauty, is in its fifth year of operation. Manley said she was inspired to start her own spa after her mother returned to school for cosmetology.

Seeing her mother’s independence and drive to succeed motivated her to do the same. Manley said she attended Friday’s event to network with other businesses. The business community in the Quad-Cities is a welcoming environment that allows people to help each other. If a person doesn’t have a solution, they probably know someone who does, she says.

“It’s about having everyone in your back pocket. Everyone knows everyone in QC,” she said.

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