Member Spotlight | Page 29 | NAWBO

Member Spotlight

For most business owners, it’s not very often that they come home from the office after changing someone’s life. Jennifer Kuntz does it every day. As the founder and CEO of Greenleaf Job Training Services, Inc., she helps individuals who face significant barriers enter or return to the workforce and enhance their independence.

Starting off as a job coach for special education, Jennifer worked with students through the school district where she was employed to support their career development. When she noticed a huge gap in service during the summers (when the schools were closed), she offered her job coaching services as a consultant to continue supporting students between school years. When an administrative change required her to be an accredited business to provide her services, Jennifer decided to launch her own side business—and thus, Greenleaf (inspired by her middle name) was born.

Through 21 years, Greenleaf has grown from a tiny consultancy launched from Jennifer’s kitchen table to a successful business situated in Columbus, Ohio, with 27 employees. While she now works primarily with adults, Greenleaf helps to place individuals in appropriate positions and assists them in acquiring basic skills needed for success on the job, like learning what to wear, how to get to and from work and understanding the give and take that comes with being an employee.

“The stories of the individuals who we’ve helped really inspire us to get through the low points,” Jennifer notes. “I find the work very inspiring and I think our clients find it very inspiring as well.”

While it’s truly meaningful work, Jennifer had to take a lot of risks to make it happen. As a single mother to three boys, she quit her job in 1995 to dedicate herself to Greenleaf full time and make her dreams of growing the business come true. But while she began the business on her own, she wasn’t alone. She recalls turning to NAWBO for the support she needed.

“NAWBO gave me confidence,” says Jennifer. “I met a lot of women who were in the same situation of starting up a business and wanting to build and grow it and either not feeling like they were ready or not knowing if it was the right thing to do. I got a lot of confirmation that I was on the right track. That came from NAWBO programming and talking with other women who were further down the road. They would share what their pitfalls were and I could see that there is light at the end of this tunnel.”

As she looks forward to the next Women’s Business Conference this fall, she is excited to share the great offerings of Columbus, Ohio, with other women business owners. “Columbus is a wonderful town,” she says. “It’s very dynamic and vibrant and feels like a large city. We have a number of organizations that are for and supported by women and women businesses. It’s very friendly in that women reach out and lift other women up. I think this is the perfect town to have the NAWBO National conference in.”

Case in point: Jennifer was recently honored by local Columbus radio station Sunny 95 as one of their local “20 Outstanding Women.” Moving ahead, Jennifer plans to continue making strides in her business and expects to broaden Greenleaf’s footprint geographically and demographically to reach more individuals in need. “A lot of companies have diversity programs where they’re trying to diversify their workforce,” she says. “We keep trying to plug away and say, ‘Include people with disabilities in that.’ When everyone in a community is working in satisfactory employment, it lifts the entire community.”

For more information about Jennifer and Greenleaf Job Training Services, please visit: http://greenleafjts.com.

 

Quick Q&A: Access to Capital

Q: How did you gain access to capital to grow your business?

The only capital I’ve ever accessed is lines of credit. I had to get the business to a certain level before the banks would take a look at it—it wasn’t easy to do. I have never borrowed or had a loan other than a line of credit. Now, we invest back into the business if we need something.

Q: That’s very impressive! What’s your secret to such financial stability?

I understood how to keep records and understood that the business checking account was not my personal checking account. To some degree, I learned to establish procedures and policies before I started Greenleaf. Now, I’m able to help others in building their businesses, which is a lot of fun. 

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