Driving Park-area church to host workshops on starting your own business


Holy Rosary & St. John Catholic Church has been a spiritual anchor in the Old Oaks and Driving Park communities for decades. But it also has become a go-to place for people who want to learn about starting their own businesses.

Volunteers have been running a “business boot camp” for area residents and beyond since 2019. The next series begins Feb. 2.

“The ultimate goal of the effort is to provide entrepreneurs out there everything they need to know about business,” Dan Miller, volunteer coordinator for the St. John Learning Center, said. “It’s near and dear to all our hearts.”

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Miller said the idea grew out of discussions of workshops the church could host.

“Our reason for wanting to do this was to help those people who wanted to start their own business, not only for our parishioners but also for the central Ohio area and anyone else who was interested,” Miller said.

Josh Wagner, a former priest who was a pastor at Holy Rosary & St. John, was one person behind the effort.

“Josh said, ‘I always wanted to do something to help people starting their own business. Let’s do a comprehensive workshop series with everything they need to know before they start their business,'” recalled Miller, who is retired after a 40-year career in business and marketing.”

Ginger Cunningham is another one of the founders. She is a consultant who does business development outreach, including helping small, minority-owned companies get certified.

She became a parishioner in 2004 because of the church’s involvement in the community. She learned that many church members wanted more information on businesses.

“Let’s reach out to as many people as possible. What services are out there that can help them?” said Cunningham, who was a contract-compliance investigator with Columbus’ Equal Business Opportunity Commission, which she left in 2010 to start her own business.

“It’s for anybody. And it doesn’t cost anything,” Cunningham said. “There’s nothing in that part of the city that has that kind of program for those individuals that are interested.”

Maynard Love, who live in the King-Lincoln Bronzeville neighborhood on the Near East Side, said he attended two previous workshops: “Open Your Business Safely During the Pandemic,” and “How to Build a Facebook Ad.”

He’s a self-made marketer who plans to sell office supplies to government agencies. Love said what he learned most from the workshops was perseverance.

“Desire, how to meet your goals,” he said.

The church, which has about 80 families, most of whom are Black, is already busy in the community, hosting a food pantry, an adult education program, and a free health and dental clinic run by the Order of Malta.

The online business boot camp workshops are free, but each session is limited to 100 tickets. They took place in the church’s community center pre-COVID.

“We’re primarily reaching out to 20-30 miles outside Columbus,” Miller said. In some cases, though, the workshops have drawn people from outside of Ohio.

When are the next Holy Rosary & St. John Catholic Church workshops?

The next sessions begin Feb. 2 and take place Wednesdays from 5-6:30 p.m. online. Here is the lineup:

  • Feb. 2: “Developing a Business Plan,” presented by Ellen Harvey of the Ohio Small Business Development Center.
  • Feb. 9: “Insurance Issues,” presented by Sandra Moody Gresham of Dehan Insurance.
  • Feb. 16: “Grants and Loans,” presented by Aminata Soko of the Economic and Community Development Institute.
  • Feb. 23: “Tax Rules and Business Configurations,” presented by Carla Gwinn of Liberty Tax Service.
  • March 2: “Marketing and Social Media,” presented by Jill Frost of Articulated Wisdom and Josh Wagner of the Ohio Council for Home Care and Hospice.

Classes are all on Zoom, with registration accessible through stjohnlearning.wordpress.com. Call 614-547-2171 for details or email sjlc.coordinator@gmail.com.

This story is part of the Dispatch’s Mobile Newsroom initiative, which is currently focused on Driving Park and surrounding neighborhoods. Later this month, reporters will focus on the Hilltop. Read their work at dispatch.com/mobilenewsroom, where you also can sign up for The Mobile Newsroom newsletter.



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