Local entrepreneur gets a boost from Small Business Development Center
Trina Worrell Benjamin, a North Philadelphia native who started her own cleaning business more than a decade ago, looked to Temple’s Small Business Development Center for services to help support her budding business along the way.
On an average day, Trina Worrell Benjamin handles invoices, returns calls and emails, directs a team of nearly a dozen employees and manages a client roster that has included big names like Rite Aid and Toys“R”Us.
She admits her first steps into entrepreneurship were not easy. But with the help of Temple’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC), the outreach arm of the university’s Fox School of Business, she established herself as a successful business owner.
“I started with an investment of $1,500 of my own money,” said Benjamin, who grew up in North Philadelphia near 12th Street and Lehigh Avenue. “I knew from the beginning I didn’t want to just start a business, I wanted to build a company.”
This year, a little more than a decade after establishing herself as an entrepreneur, Benjamin’s company, TWB Cleaning Contractors, anticipates turning nearly a six-figure profit.
Through consulting, training and access to affordable workspace, the SBDC has helped entrepreneurs like Benjamin successfully grow their businesses since 1983. The center also offers an incubator program that provides coworking, cubicle space and an opportunity to network with other business owners.
“Trina is an ideal incubator tenant. She first took our 10-week business planning class and entered the incubator as she prepared to grow,” said Jamie Shanker-Passero, associate director of the SBDC and manager of the incubator. “She is ambitious but understands that growth must happen strategically.”
While working within the incubator program, Benjamin went from working as a subcontractor to negotiating her own large cleaning contracts.
Her first steps toward entrepreneurship began in 2008 when she started a cleaning business with a childhood friend. Initially, she went into business in order to supplement her income. It wasn’t until the company started to grow significantly in its fourth year that she considered going solely into business for income.
“We got to the point where we could hire employees. That’s when I realized how lucrative this could be if we could put in 100 percent of our time,” she said. “I had a larger vision. I knew that if we could put all of our focus on the business, I knew we’d be successful.”
Her partner didn’t agree. Giving up a day job in order to take on entrepreneurship full time was too much of a risk. So in 2013, after working together for nearly six years, Benjamin severed her relationship with her business partner and set out to become her own boss, full-time.
Nearly a year later, she came across information on Temple’s SBDC through an internet job search.
“I am a witness to women entrepreneurs making great strides,” said Benjamin. “We’re here to stay, and we’re determined and persistent.”
According to a 2017 report released by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, becoming a business owner may represent the most viable career alternative for some ethnic groups. Twenty percent of Africans and African Americans are starting or running new businesses, higher than the national rate and up from 15.5 percent in 2016, the report states.
Although men still make up the majority of business owners, women entrepreneurs are significant contributors to the U.S. economy, said Ellen Weber, executive director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute at the Fox School of Business.
“When women start businesses, they provide income for their families and employment for their communities,” said Weber. “They also create products and services that deliver value to the world around them. Women entrepreneurs start businesses to create economic and social value.”
This is true for Benjamin’s business. Each summer, TWB Cleaning Contractors sponsors young Philadelphians enrolled in the Youthworks, a summer job program sponsored by the City of Philadelphia. Over the summer, five school-aged students spend six weeks working for her company.
“Having come from a public health background, I’ve seen firsthand what people will resort to in order to feed their families,” said Benjamin. “One of the most rewarding aspects of being a business owner is being able to offer employment opportunities to people in my community who are underemployed or unemployed.”