One of the South Side Innovation Center’s first members celebrated its 47th anniversary Saturday, April 24.
Branch’s Driving School, headquartered on West Genesee Street downtown, had offices at the SSIC when the center first opened on South Salina Street. The SSIC offers local businesses business counseling and a place to start.
Deraux Branch, the president of the driving school, said that one of the challenges of small and minority-owned businesses is that they often start from the homes of the owners.
“Having your own office, your own phones, your own computers, gives your business legitimacy,” said Branch, who is also a commercial lender for a credit union.
Branch knows first-hand: When the driving school first started, Branch said, it was out of his own home. His father borrowed $350 from his grandmother to print fliers and make a sign. When Branch took over the business from his father, in 1982, he decided to move it into its own office, Branch said.
Branch gets regular calls from minority business owners looking for advice, he said.
Along with his advisory role and work as a commercial lender, Branch is also working to expand his business to the suburbs.
“I’ve been working seven days a week for a long time,” Branch said. “Getting up at 2:30, 3 in the morning.”
That’s what it takes, Branch said, to keep your own small business afloat. He’s got a hands-on approach: on Saturday, the business’ anniversary, Branch was teaching a class, going over common driving acronyms: HOV, DWI, BAC. And that night, a celebration for the 47th anniversary.
“I’m a busy guy,” Branch said.