By Mike Lawrence
March 29. 2016 8:05PM
NEW BEDFORD — Michael Melo has been working at his family-owned M & C Café long enough to see North End mills transition, over decades, from full of textiles to empty and now to gradually filling again, with housing and growing businesses.
Melo said his parents opened the Portuguese seafood spot in 1967, and he’s been a co-owner on Belleville Avenue since 1984.
George Kirby IV also cited long experience, saying he’s the seventh generation of family ownership at George Kirby Jr. Paint Co., which has operated in New Bedford for 170 years.
But both men said their experience didn’t mean they knew everything about running a business. And both men celebrated their graduation Tuesday evening from Interise SouthCoast, which uses public and private partnerships to provide its Streetwise “MBA” program. The program gives support and training to small, established businesses that are looking to take the next step.
“You can always learn something more,” Melo said at Cork Wine & Tapas Bar downtown, where Interise SouthCoast held its fourth graduation event.
“I just took over for my Dad,” added Kirby. “I’ve been working there my whole life, but now I have to learn how to run the place.”
He’ll have some help — Kirby took the latest Interise program with his wife, Shari Kirby, who does accounting for the paint company.
George Kirby said the program taught him better ways to track sales patterns, improve profit and loss statements, and market Kirby products, such as a new line of latex interior and exterior paints he hopes to publicize on social media and the company website.
“I think it will help me make better decisions in the future,” he said.
Interise SouthCoast is a regional branch of the Boston-based business accelerator Interise, which began its Streetwise “MBA” program in 2004 and now offers programs nationwide.
Jackie Raposo, senior program manager for Interise, said 11 business owners across eight businesses graduated with this year’s group.
Not all participants had as many decades of business experience as Melo and the Kirbys. Elissa Paquette, for example, has run her Calico clothing business for about 10 years, including seven years in the current location on Union Street downtown.
Paquette, 35, said the Interise program taught her how to stabilize her cash flow across the full year, despite a business that can see a rush of sales during the holidays but fewer sales in slow periods.
Paquette said Calico, which sells new women’s fashion, has had a second location open in Providence for about a year.
Interise SouthCoast will start its next Streetwise “MBA” program in September. More information is available online at www.interise.org.
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By Mike Lawrence