Aiding Entrepreneurs and Communities

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:34 pm

Freedom Training Centers of America, a business incubator which opened its first location early this year in Waukesha, plans to open dozens of additional locations across the country. Earlier this month, Freedom Training Centers of America received a letter of intent from Arcadia, Calif.-based Team Inspiration LLC to open 50, 100,000-square-foot centers across the country, said Moses Cedeno, chief operating officer of Team Inspiration.

Team Inspiration is a non-profit organization founded by Bob Wieland, a Milwaukee native and Vietnam War veteran who lost his legs from a land mine. The organization raises money for children, veterans, Easter Seals and offers business and employment opportunities for the communities they serve. Team Inspiration wants the Freedom Training Centers to be used as community training and learning facilities, in addition to being used as business incubators.

The construction of the Freedom Training Center facilities will be funded by Wieland’s fundraising efforts. Wieland has become an inspiration to many people all over the world from his motivational speeches and by seeing him compete in triathlons and marathons by walking on his knuckles. He walked across the country, and back, on his knuckles. That took him from 1982 to 1986 to accomplish. He has also served as a strength, flexibility and motivational coach for the Green Bay Packers.

When Wieland heard about Freedom Training Centers, he saw them as an opportunity to give communities a place for children and adults to access resources for education and entrepreneurship, Cedeno said.

"Bob and Moses toured the facility and right away knew it was something they wanted to include in their plans," said Kevin Rather, president of Freedom Training Centers.

In addition, America’s Cash Back Network, a Cincinnati-based company launched last year, has committed to have an office in every Freedom Training Center that Team Inspiration opens, said George Zach, chief executive officer of Freedom Training Centers. America’s Cash Back Network offers savings to its members through discount packages at stores and restaurants

Wieland will begin The Bob Wieland Tour of America in 2006, when he will hold jog-athons, bike-athons and swim-athons in communities across the country to raise money for school districts, fire departments, police departments, armed forces, veterans and St. Jude’s Children’s Medical Center nationwide, Cedeno said.

Half of the money raised for school districts will go directly to the students through the PTA and booster clubs and the other half will go toward building the Freedom Training Centers, Cedeno said. The first of the 50 centers will be in California, he said.

"We want to give people the opportunity to change and take on their own responsibilities, the opportunity to shed old habits, to be re-encouraged and to have a personal relationship with Bob Wieland," Cedeno said.

America’s Cash Back Network will also launch a new Cash Back debit card that offers cash back to those in the network and discounts at participating stores for those that use the debit card, Ken Stoll, chief operating officer for America’s Cash Back Network said.

The debit card from America’s Cash Back Network and a participating bank will also help users to establish credit through purchases instead of through a credit card, Stoll said. Stoll did not disclose the partnering bank.

Freedom Training Centers of America was established to serve as a center to help business entrepreneurs by offering virtual office capabilities, an Internet cafŽ, a conference room and a state-of-the-art classroom, Rather said.

Freedom Training Center clients can use a Super Teaching system, a technology developed by Innovative Communications, Inc. (ICI), a Byron Center, Mich.-based company. ICI created Super Teaching by combining technology and studies on memory retention, Rather said.

Super Teaching uses three large screens, cameras and speakers around the room, high-tech projection systems and a presentation format that constantly shows different images on each screen to create a learning environment that participants retain 86 percent more information from a presentation than they would in a traditional classroom or learning setting, Rather said.

"Instead of one screen rotating images, all three screens are changing (at different times) and constantly reinforcing the information," Rather said. "There is always a new image the brain has to look at."

Super Teaching was originally created to be used in educational settings but Rather saw potential for Super Teaching to be used in business. Each Super Teaching unit costs about $200,000. People can buy the system at the Freedom Training Center.

Super Teaching can save companies money by offering the state-of-the-art facility for a fraction of the cost of renting the equipment and installing it in a conference center, Rather said. Companies benefit when their employees retain more information from a training session using Super Teaching, he said.

The Freedom Training Centers that will be opened by Team Inspiration will serve as a community center and business incubator with multiple Super Teaching units in different rooms, Cedeno said. The centers will be located within a school district that will be able to access the facility for free, he said.

County economic development corporations will hold business classes at the centers and meeting rooms will be available for individuals in need of space, Cedeno said.

In addition to the America’s Cash Back Network offices, Team Inspiration is speaking with other vendors to open offices inside the centers, including FedEx Kinko’s, Cedeno said.

"Future business owners and entrepreneurs will truly have a real, standing and successful opportunity to complete their dreams and have a business," Cedeno said. "(The centers) will have the advantage of, ‘It’s who you know’ all in one location. We are very excited."

The 4,700-square-foot Freedom Training Center in Waukesha has a main focus on business development but plans to cater to school districts and church groups as the Freedom Training Center is contacted by those groups, Rather said.

Prices to use the Freedom Training Center are either at or below the average price for a facility of its kind in the Milwaukee area, Rather said.

It costs $500 to rent a full classroom for half of a day, but special deals are available. The classroom seats about 100 people and includes the use of Super Teaching audio and visual equipment.

The Networking Community LLC (TNC), a Milwaukee-based networking group that recently launched an effort to create networking groups across the country, has also partnered with Freedom Training Centers said Dan Williams, founder and chief executive officer of TNC.

TNC plans to use the Freedom Training Center facility as a catalyst for its own growth with monthly educational seminars on networking. The center will also provide TNC the ability to have a virtual presentation with networking experts located outside of Wisconsin, Williams said.

"We expect that arrangement to strengthen and grow as we go nationwide," Rather said. "One difference from the Freedom Training Center being a conference center and a business incubator has to do with networking."

The centers help start-up companies and entrepreneurs meet other businesspeople by becoming a meeting place for businesspeople to use the Internet CafŽ, see a presentation, attend a workshop or hold business at the center through the virtual office offering, Rather said.

"At the heart of Freedom Training Centers we encourage entrepreneurs to start up businesses and we support them in the early stages," Rather said. "We help as much as we can. There is no formal process, but just by having an office here they can find the people they need."

The virtual office capabilities offered by Freedom Training Centers begin at a cost of $149 per month, Rather said. Entrepreneurs that have a virtual office at Freedom Training Centers have access to services including temporary private office space, a board room, a meeting room, voicemail and a live receptionist and can use the Freedom Training Center as their professional address.

"We want to build a nationwide network of contacts where each center has the same type of facility and philosophy," Rather said. "In smaller communities the center can be a community resource, a training center and if someone wants to start a business they can go there and get help."

The Freedom Training Centers that will be run by Team Inspiration will focus more on the community as a whole than just helping businesses get off the ground, Zach said.

Super Teaching will offer opportunities for school districts to take students on a virtual field trip. For example, students can watch a video about the ocean and then have a live video conference with a marine biologist in Florida.

The centers will also be a place for parents to spend time. The America’s Cash Back Network office plans to appeal to those that want to restructure their finances by receiving discounts on purchases and putting cash back in their pockets, Stoll said.

Wieland will also become a regular fixture of inspiration at the centers through appearances and videos, Cedeno said.

"We want to make sure that we reach parents," Cedeno said. "We want to inspire families by teaching the traits and habits of Bob Wieland. We have aligned with America’s Cash Back Network to offer the opportunity to parents to change their life and to inspire income."

The Freedom Training Center in Waukesha has only two full-time employees. Zach serves as a part-time chief executive officer and several consultants have arrangements with the Freedom Training Center but are not considered on staff.

Rather plans to hire a marketing director and more employees as business picks up, he said.

Business will pick up, Rather said. Freedom Training Centers is already speaking to multiple potential partners that are looking to open centers in their hometowns. Rather also said he hopes to open a few more centers in the Milwaukee area.

"Ultimately the challenge for Freedom Training Centers is what it can achieve rather than the cost (of opening a center) and (finding) the place, because that is where there are lasting results," Rather said. "We want to be able to help everyone."

August 19, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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