If you’re wondering what it takes to start a small business in the Bay Area or need expert advice on running an existing business, help is close at hand and the price is right.
For the fifth year, Santa Clara’s Central Park Library hosted a free, two-hour workshop for new entrepreneurs sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). This year’s November 14 workshop was facilitated by Steve Bangs, SBA Lead Lender Relations Specialist. Bangs and SBA local resource partners gave overviews of the free or low-cost resources available through their organizations.
“I’m a freelance artist and graphic illustrator, and I’m trying to decide if I want to start a graphic design firm,” says Kyle Pellet of San Jose, one of about 60 people who attended the workshop. “It helped with what resources are out there. Now I feel I have somewhere to go to talk about what I want to do.”
First stop for Pellet will be Silicon Valley SCORE (www.svscore.org), a volunteer organization of experienced, retired or working business executives. Pellet can set up confidential, free, one-hour counseling sessions with a team of not just one but two business counselors.
“SCORE provides someone to bounce ideas off of and get feedback. We can be honest and tell people what they really need to know. We don’t have a vested interest,” says presenter Marty Schwartz, one of SCORE’s more than 60 counselors in Silicon Valley.
“Do you have a unique product or service that provides value to customers or clients and has a competitive advantage?” is the first question to ask yourself according to Schwartz.
“You can’t be a successful entrepreneur unless you’re a good sales person,” he advises. “Also, you have to be able to work with and manage other people.”
Pellet can also sign up for low-cost SCORE seminars and workshops targeting specific issues such as “Marketing and Sales for Startups” and “Legal Issues for Startups.” SCORE houses a business reference library at its San Jose location.
“I came here to get motivated and got it,” says Flor Taylor of San Jose, who has a fledgling Internet-based business. If she qualifies, the Women’s Initiative might help her.
The Women’s Initiative (www.womensinitiative.org) provides extensive business management training programs for high-potential, socially- or economically-disadvantaged Bay Area women who want to start or expand businesses.
“Self-empowerment is an issue for women,” says Tania Viana, Women’s Initiative Client Service Coordinator.
Workshop attendee Clarissa Moore of San Jose wants advice on setting up and funding the Gallery of the African American Journey, a nonprofit project at 1st AME Zion Church, San Jose. Moore can go to SCORE for help with this nonprofit project.
If you need financing for your business but can’t get a loan through a bank, talk to Sandy Mackovich, TMC Working Solutions business development officer. The nonprofit (http://tmcworkingsolutions.org) makes microloans from $5,000 to $50, 000 and has lent over $2 million to Bay Area businesses since 2005.
SBA Lead Lender Relations Specialist Bangs, (415) 744-6792, provided information on federal government contracting as well as on SBA loans. However, the consensus of opinion of all four resource experts, was “Don’t get outside financing until you really need it.”
For information about SBA resources, visit www.sba.gov. For the San Jose area, visit http://norcalsbdc.org or call (408) 351-3600.