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Council gets savory report on business pitch program
STEP program Council report
Chef Stephen Mason, owner off Chef Mason Catering in Modesto, cooks up some shrimp scampi during Tuesday’s Turlock City Council meeting (JOE CORTEZ/The Journal).

The smell of shrimp scampi, sautéed in a white wine and butter wasn’t emanating from a restaurant in downtown Turlock on Tuesday evening, but rather from the city council chambers during the council’s regular meeting.

Chef Stephen Mason, owner off Chef Mason Catering in Modesto, participated in six-month program that culminated with him winning the second annual Stanislaus Equity Partners (STEP) Micro-Business Hub pitch contest in August at the Carnegie Arts Center.

Mason was on hand for Tuesday’s city council meeting as part of a presentation that highlighted the benefits of the small-business program that came to Turlock this year.

The pitch contest is a take-off on TV’s “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs pitch ideas to a group of business moguls.

Economic development director Anthony Sims would like to continue Turlock’s association with STEP.

“We want to provide even more resources for small businesses,” said Sims. “Working with STEP is another way to do that. They have these condensed courses ready to go, so we’ll facilitate the location, we’ll help with the marketing, whatever we can do to bring those services to Turlock for our businesses. And Stanislaus Equity Partners is very receptive to working with the city of Turlock. They’re great partners.”

Sims hope Turlock can also offer a cohort for Spanish speakers.

During the six-session program, small-business owners learn skills such as creating business plans,  audiences, and managing finances.

“We’re going to change it next year,” said Maria Hernandez, STEP small business services manager. “We’re going to have a six-week course. We open it to any county resident and it’s free.”

And instead of one six-month cohort per year, STEP anticipates offering six different six-week sessions.

“The ultimate goal is for them to finish a business plan,” said STEP program coordinator Anaiz Madrigal. “So, once they go through all six sessions, each topic that’s covered throughout those sessions will, in turn, help them to complete their business plan. And that is what they need to do in order to present, because anytime they’re going to ask for a loan, they’re going to have to have that.”

Turlock vice-mayor Pam Franco attended the pitch competition at the Carnegie on Aug. 24 and came away impressed.

“I would just like to see the small businesses in this area get the education so they can really make their business something special,” said Franco.