Less than six months after graduating from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s (NJEDA’s) and  African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey’s (AACCNJ) inaugural Small Business Bonding Readiness Program class, entrepreneur Franchesca Abed has greatly expanded the reach of Ralf’s Heating Plumbing & General Contractors, her business.

Ralf’s has been family-owned and operated since it was founded in 1989 by Abed’s uncle, Juan Delgado. Abed began working at the business after graduating from Stockton University with a degree in Accounting in the midst of the economic downturn in 2009. She started out doing bookkeeping, contract management, and other back office tasks, but soon discovered her passion for the contracting business. She and her husband Abdul Abed, a master plumber, purchased the company from Delgado earlier this year, allowing him to retire. 

Franchesca Abed was among 27 small business owners in the first class to graduate from the Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program in May. The program provides a comprehensive series of classroom trainings, workshops, and strategic counseling sessions covering a variety of topics relevant to small businesses in all sectors, including bonding and insurance, business development, financial presentation, construction and contract law, construction management, estimating, and credit. At the end of the 18-week course, all participating businesses received a Bonding Readiness Segment Report, which provided an in-depth assessment of their strengths and weaknesses to help them plan for the future.

While Ralf’s is located in Camden, the Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program offers entrepreneurs right here in Trenton the same opportunity to complete for a lion’s share of contracting dollars.

“It’s heartening to see graduates of the first class of the Small Business Bonding Readiness Program securing contracts for government projects,” said John Harmon, Founder, President, and CEO of AACNJ. “These business owners have worked hard to position themselves for growth, and that growth will spill over into their communities as they invest in their businesses and hire more local employees to help keep pace with demand. We are excited to continue that momentum with the next round of entrepreneurs in the coming months.”

“The credentials we gained from this course have enhanced our credibility and confidence among potential customers that may not have given us a second look before,” Franchesca Abed said.

Abed also noted her company’s commitment to giving back to the community, as evidenced by Ralf’s employees’ work with Habitat for Humanity, and the St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society, both of which promote affordable housing and neighborhood development.

Members of the first class of the Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program have, to date, qualified for more than $5 million in surety bonding that will better position these firms to bid on public contracts.

“The Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program is helping to level the playing field for many women- and minority-owned businesses by enabling them to bid on lucrative government contracts,” said NJEDA Director of Small Business Services Christina Fuentes. “We are thrilled to see companies from the first round of program graduates succeeding.”

Businesses interested in participating in an upcoming Small Business Bonding Readiness Program class should visit the AACCNJ’s website for details.