After outgrowing her home-based center, Diane Patrick began looking for a location to build a new center and eventually found two available lots on McBaine Avenue in the First Ward. Zoning regulations and finding an architect to design the facility were challenges.
“There were lots of things I didn’t know,” she said.
Patrick said she was denied a business loan by the first bank she approached. A second bank agreed to finance the expanding center with a small-business loan, citing a need in that part of the community.
She opened her new center in November 2004 at 404 McBaine Ave.
“We’re 95 to 100 percent full all of the time,” Patrick said. “There was definitely a need.”
Diane Patrick did not set out to become a role model for entrepreneurs in Columbia’s First Ward. She was only looking for an opportunity to have her family nearby while she worked.
“Columbia is my home, and I grew up in the First Ward,” she said. “I started doing a home day-care business so I could have my grandchildren around.”
The owner of Nanny’s Neighborhood Childcare Center will be featured at 5:30 this evening in a panel discussion about her success as a local small-business owner at the Columbia Labor Temple on Garth Avenue. Covenant Community Development Corp., sponsor of the event, is working with First Ward residents to improve the economic standing of their neighborhood by promoting locally owned businesses.
“The median income of the First Ward is less than half of that for the rest of the city, maybe even closer to one-third,” said Steve Henness, a resident of the First Ward and former board member of Covenant Community Development Corp. “Poverty is all around us, and it’s not pretty.”
The Covenant Community Development Corp. is a nonprofit agency promoting revitalization for central city neighborhoods with educational resources and minority-owned businesses, Executive Director Dana Battison said. The organization is also involved in a project to construct a grocery store and mixed-use building on the southwest corner of the Garth Avenue and Sexton Road intersection.
“When we talk about entrepreneurship, it is not about one person stepping out on their own, they really need support all along the way,” Henness said. “I believe everyone has a dream for what they’d like to do in their life, and this is about providing opportunities for neighborhood residents to take that next step.”
Tonight’s session is the first in a series of events that will also provide information on topics such as budgeting, crime prevention and taxes. The organization has reserved the Labor Temple for every other Tuesday through April, but is still in the process of confirming topics and speakers.
“Our overall goal is a healthy community for all of Columbia because a city is only as strong as its core,” Battison said.
Youth need to be part of the conversation, Battison said, and she hopes The Intersection, a neighborhood community center at Garth Avenue and Sexton Road, will play a role.
“I would much rather the kids at The Intersection see Diane Patrick or Harold Warren Sr. as examples than the drug dealer on the corner,” she said.
Warren, of Warren Funeral Chapel, will serve with Patrick as a panelist during this evening’s discussion. The business owners were chosen as role models to inspire confidence and help residents relate to successful entrepreneurs, Henness said.
Organizers are expecting young people will attend and participate in the First Ward’s economic future, Henness said. “In five to 10 years, they will be the business leaders of the community.”