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Two Cape entrepreneurs receive MicroEnterprise Project start up grants

By Staff | Feb 4, 2012

Two Cape entrepreneurs have been chosen to receive $2,500 in business start-up funds from Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida and Lee County Human Services to help launch their new businesses.

Christa Lemonakis of Cape Coral has already received her check, and Cape Coral’s Raquel Mendoza will receive a grant in the coming weeks, said Director of Goodwill’s MicroEnterprise Project Elliott Rittenhouse. They have recently graduated from the project’s specialized class.

“In the year and a half since the Southwest Florida MicroEnterprise project began, 71 entrepreneurs have graduated from the program with certificates symbolizing their completion of First Step FastTrac classes,” said Goodwill’s Director of Public Relations Kirsten Britt O’Donnell. “FastTrac is a training program, designed by the Kauffman foundation, to help emerging entrepreneurs start new ventures and grow small businesses.”

Lemonakis is the founder of Extend & Mend International, a wig and hair extension distributor. Mendoza is preparing to open an as-yet-unnamed massage and spa practice.

Two spring sessions of MicroEnterprise courses will begin Feb. 27 in Fort Myers and Feb. 28 in LaBelle. Fort Myers classes will meet Monday and Thursday evenings for six weeks at the Southwest Florida Enterprise Center, 3903 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.. LaBelle classes will meet Tuesday evenings at the Southwest Florida Works Office, 921 Anvil Circle.

Seats are still available for both spring sessions.

“The program is designed to help any aspiring entrepreneur who is unemployed or underemployed,” Rittenhouse said. “And they may be disadvantaged from a financial point of view.

“The grant funds have been provided by Lee County Department of Human Services. Those who graduate from the project are eligible to apply to receive the grant money. The recipient of the grant must reside and have their business in Lee County.”

Of current honoree Lemonakis, he said, “She is an energetic and enthusiastic entrepreneur – you can tell it by the manner.”

“The grant will really help me, It’s very exciting,” Lemonakis said. “I’m an advocate for the program as it enabled me to transform my thoughts and vision into a plan.

“My primary market is women suffering from hair loss, either from the aftermath from chemotherapy or Allopercia or genetic hair loss disorder, and also those who want extensions.”

She came up with the idea for the business after a young friend of hers was diagnosed with cancer.

“Her friend held it together until chemotherapy took all of her hair, which just devastated her,” Rittenhouse said.

Her website is Extendandmend.com. There are several levels to her business. Buyers are wholesale, beauty supply owners, cosmetologists, salons or medical supply owner.

“Our target market is also proms, the updo and make-up projects, and we have contracts with salons to get their referrals. Anyone in the public that is interested in getting extensions can also contact us at 245-4430 or at info@extendandmend.com.

“I’m also planning an event for the end of April, where we will donate a beauty experience to the American Cancer Society and other local organizations.”

“Mendoza will use her funds to start a business called Welcome Home Soul Spa, offering different modalities in massage therapy, including Reiki Therapy, Swedish Deep Tissue Massage and prenatal and sports messages,” said Rittenhouse. “She is striving to create a business that is unique and provides a holistic experience for both mind and body.”

The SWFL MicroEnterprise Project is administered by Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, Inc. through partnerships with the Lee County Department of Human Services, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Southwest Florida Enterprise Center, Fifth Third Bank, Florida Community Bank, and the Edison State College Hendry/Glades Center.

For more information, including that on registration, go to goodwillswfl.org/microenterprise or contact Rittenhouse at 995-2106 ext. 215.