In the fall of 2015, James Latta was sitting on the train heading into Philadelphia. He had launched The Jasmine Effect, a platform designed to make the process of transitioning overseas a safer, easier, and more cost-effective proposition, the year prior.
Latta was heading to the city to take a business class at the SBDC. While on the train, he started a conversation with the passenger across from him, who ended up being a professor at Wharton. After sharing that he’d just launched a start-up but had never taken a business class in his life, the professor remarked that may be Latta’s greatest asset. Confused, he exited the train at 30th Street Station and continued to the class.
While a graduate student at American University in Cairo during 2011, Latta had developed the original business prototype during the early turbulence of the Arab Spring, when he developed a clunky WordPress site to assist his fellow ex-pats and international students in finding safe housing during what was originally referred to as The Jasmine Revolution. Fast forward six years from that first business class and almost 2 years into the pandemic, the pre-revenue idea for a start-up that Latta brought to SBDC has taken flight. What had been a failed B2C platform servicing ex-pats in North Africa is now a global B2B platform sourcing safe and secure accommodations – despite the COVID-19 pandemic. The Jasmine Effect has saved their clients time, energy, and resources, all while mitigating risk in some challenging locations during a very turbulent time. Their team has grown from the founder to four full-time and five part-time team members, spread across six countries and four time zones. They are profitable, and with the income of existing projects, will be able to keep chugging along for some time. Also importantly, Latta is now able to pay himself a sustainable income, no longer having to pick up part-time jobs to make ends meet. The Jasmine Effect’s pipeline is robust.
Latta relies on a small circle of advisors, including John Ondik, the instructor from the SBDC class and senior business consultant, whose wisdom, patience, and experience have proven to be invaluable in reaching this point. The workshop on writing a business plan, the center’s assistance in conducting a SWOT analysis, and other small business assistance greatly benefitted the start-up early on, but what has made the most lasting impact is Ondik’s ongoing mentorship and counsel, which continues to point Latta in the right direction.
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