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Startup West Tenth building virtual main street for women with home-based businesses

Lyn Johnson and Sara Sparhawk both went to BYU together and graduated in 2004. Following graduation, the two went on their own paths before coming back together to start West Tenth, a startup currently based in Southern California and Utah.

The startup was founded about a year and a half ago, just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, after the two recognized that many women were leaving the workforce to care for their families.

When those women wanted to contribute in a different way, maybe because of a financial need, the two felt that a poor job was being done as a society with regard to giving women options to onboard back into the labor force.

This was something that Johnson and Sparhawk were witnessing firsthand with family and friends, and they realized that more women were turning to entrepreneurship and home-based businesses to have the flexibility they needed while also generating income for their families.

The goal of West Tenth is to support those women with home-based businesses while making it easier for communities to know about the home-based businesses that exist and help serve the community.

“We think of it as a modern main street because these women are running businesses right in our own backyards, so we need a way to aggregate and find them a little bit easier,” Johnson said. “Our app is kind of a main street for home-based businesses within the community. We really just hope to, one, increase the visibility of these businesses and, two, lend them a little bit more legitimacy and credibility.”

Many people view these businesses as hobbies or side hustles, but Johnson said that they are legitimate businesses being run out of homes that deserve serious consideration.

The businesses joining West Tenth may already have their own websites, but bringing those businesses together onto the app allows for established customers with one business to discover similar people doing various services or making goods.

The COVID-19 pandemic also accelerated the problem that Johnson and Sparhawk saw, as more women decided to focus on families as children were out of school, according to Johnson.

She added that many women started to turn toward creative ways to generate income, leading to more businesses joining West Tenth and also a $1.5 million investment funding round during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While some may be familiar with people selling items or services on Etsy, Johnson said West Tenth offers a more localized selection, something the startup values.

“Even though there are a lot of platforms for local services, there just isn’t anything that is dedicated to this demographic of service providers and we want to be that for them,” Johnson said.

This demographic is not just exclusive to women, with some men being on the app. But Johnson said women are the targeted demographic.

This is because of the types of services and products that are offered on West Tenth, revolving around services that enhance home and family life.

“We’re really passionate about helping to support women where they are, and so we started this and it’s basically been fueled by passion,” Johnson said. “I think the most fulfilling parts of it are when we do hear women say that they feel like we helped them realize that they are legitimate business owners, that they are not dismissive of their own talents anymore.”

Looking to the future, Sparhawk said that West Tenth is currently expanding into other markets, including Phoenix, Arizona, while also investing and creating a better product to service home-based businesses.

The hope for the future is that people will be able to engage and find businesses easier while also building an educational aspect for the business owners. This includes lessons on photography, digital graphics, copywriting and more.

All of it is to help female home-based business owners with growth. To learn more about West Tenth, visit www.westtenth.com.

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Committee approves Provo councilmember’s appointment to Quality Growth Commission

The Senate Political Subdivisions Confirmation Committee voted this week to favorably recommend the appointment of Provo Municipal Councilmember Shannon Ellsworth to the Quality Growth Commission.

Ellsworth, who was elected to the Provo council in 2019, was appointed to the Quality Growth Commission by Gov. Spencer Cox earlier this year. The Senate Political Subdivisions Confirmation Committee met on Wednesday to hear from Ellsworth “regarding the appointee’s qualifications,” as well as to “receive public comment and “consider whether to recommend confirmation to the full Senate.”

The Quality Growth Commission, housed within the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, is responsible for “assist(ing) local governments with Quality Growth Planning” and “advis(ing) the legislature and the Governor on growth management issues,” as well as “promot(ing) critical land conservation as part of responsible growth by administering the LeRay McAllister Critical Land Conservation Program,” according to the Quality Growth Commission website.

The McAllister Program uses funds appropriated by the Utah State Legislature “to purchase conservation easements on important pieces of private land, acquire small parcels in fee title under limited circumstances and provide small restoration grants to improve conserved lands,” the online description states.

Since 2000, the McAllister Fund has conserved approximately 100,000 acres of “critical lands” in Utah, and the Legislature has appropriated about $20 million.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Ellsworth told the committee that she works for Sunrise Engineering as a certified city planner “helping communities plan for growth and development and working on land use environmental issues.”

“But by night, I am a representative of Provo City,” Ellsworth said, adding that Provo is “the heart of Utah County.”

Ellsworth was one of a number of local officials who pushed for a conservation easement for Bridal Veil Falls after a private developer proposed building a tram and high-end drug treatment facility at the county-owned property.

In December 2020, the Provo Municipal Council approved a resolution recommending a conservation easement for the falls and stating that the “preservation of Bridal Veil Falls in its natural state for its scenic beauty for the enjoyment of this and future generations is invaluable, and any loss to access by the public will have a detrimental effect on the quality of life enjoyed by those who use and visit the area.”

Ellsworth also supported a resolution sponsored by Rep. Keven Stratton, R-Orem, during this year’s general session that encourages the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation to evaluate either a state park or state monument designation for Bridal Veil Falls. Ellsworth called the resolution “a big win for our community.”

If approved by the full Senate, Ellsworth’s appointment to the Quality Growth Commission will expire on June 30, 2025.

The Senate Political Subdivisions Confirmation Committee also favorably recommended the appointment of Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter and reappointment of Park City Mayor Andy Beerman to the Quality Growth Commission.

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Provo Fire and Rescue risk assessment uncovers concerns

For the past three years, Provo Fire and Rescue has been the target of a community risk assessment. On Tuesday, the municipal council heard the report.

Bill Boyd, senior consultant for Emergency Services Consulting International, gave the council some food for thought about where the department stands and where it needs to be.

The good news, according to Boyd, is that Provo has fewer incidents than most cities of similar size in the nation. He said the reason is because residents are extremely self-reliant and neighbors help each other.

However, Boyd said there are number of things that need to be taken care of where the department is deficient and lacking.

The assessment included on-site visits, data gathering and looking at everything from organizational history to community risks.

Chief Jim Miguel and Councilman George Handley both noted there had not been any additional personnel slots added in more than 22 years; crew assignments have just been moved around.

Boyd said that shows in things like the lack of enough fire inspectors for the number of commercial buildings in the city, including Brigham Young University down to any building over three stories high.

For instance, inspections for occupancy have not been given out for the past three months because personnel are currently on the hillside clearing tree limbs and brush to help eradicate fire potentials during the drought and trying to keep wild animals above the hillside homes.

Provo has five fire stations, but only one of them is west of the freeway, which Boyd calls a big barrier.

With the anticipated and ongoing population growth, a fire station should be relocated closer to the Provo Municipal Airport in the southwest of the city and one close to Provo High School in the northwest portion of the city, Boyd said.

Right now, there are only two personnel stationed at the westside location, but Boyd indicated there should be at least four at a minimum. There also is no ladder truck on the west side.

Boyd said there is a significant flood plain in the southwest portion of the city and catastrophic flooding has occurred there in the past.

While having to use census numbers from 2010 and estimating how they might have changed, Boyd noted that Provo’s population is expected to increase 3.4% by 2030, probably more.

The largest number of response calls, about 60%, are for medical reasons and take about 4 to 6 minutes response time given a handful of variables. For a house or structure fire, it takes about 8-9 minutes response time and includes transporting up to 20 crew members.

The short-term goals for the city, which should be done within a year’s time, include: accurately reporting response times and set response time goals; relocating Station 21 farther west because of growth and bringing staffing up to four; making the dispatch center read questions and ask callers on medical emergencies so the proper response time with the right equipment is reached.

Other concerns that need to be fixed this year, Boyd said, include creating a comprehensive list of all the commercial buildings in the city. Currently, the department does not have such a list.

Mid- and long-term goals, which should be completed within three to five years, include putting Station 24 near the airport.

“You could end up with issues and you need more officers per Federal Aviation Administration requirements,” Boyd said. That is based on the new terminal opening and more flight coming in and out of Provo. It would also cover the new Regional Sports Complex being built next to the airport.

According to Boyd, Provo should work with other nearby municipalities to provide response no matter who owns the equipment, and the closest department should be showing up.

“Discussions are ongoing,” Miguel noted of those partnership agreements.

Building inspectors and fire crews should become familiar with commercial buildings and know what is stored in them, Boyd said, so that if there is a late-night call on a fire, information is readily available.

Boyd said a growth management plan should be put in place for the west side, both south and north. Indications are this is where older residents and lower-income residents live and will move to, he said, and more medical calls will come to this area.

In all of this, Boyd said, “financial prudence is a priority.”

Councilwoman Shannon Ellsworth was interested in the BYU population and how Provo covers the campus.

“BYU is self-sufficient,” Boyd said. “They have a small EMS station and they have their own fire marshal. Any demand is human-caused. The maintenance of the campus is exceptional.”

“We recognize our shortcomings,” Miguel told the council. “And we don’t disagree.”

The council will now take the information and work with the mayor and Miguel on what to do next to make sure Provo has the fire and rescue safety it not only needs, but deserves.