Back to School: Why small business development centers can be a great resource for entrepreneurs
By Iris Dorbian.
Administered by the Small Business Administration, the federal agency that provides support to entrepreneurs, Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) have played a key role in growing many small businesses nationwide. Funded through a combination of state and SBA grants, most are typically based at community colleges and state universities. Offering mostly free services, ranging from developing a business plan to executing a marketing strategy, SBDCs can be a lifesaver for financially strapped entrepreneurs looking to turn their dreams into reality.
For Amber Sims Hinterplattner, co-owner of the four-year-old All Stages Marketing, a digital and social media marketing agency based in Santa Barbara, California, enlisting the services of a local college’s SBDC proved instrumental in building a solid foundation for her company in its infancy. She first became acquainted with the center through the teacher of an adult education entrepreneurial course that she was taking with her husband and business partner at Santa Barbara City College.
“[Our class] was taught by an active SBDC consultant who mentioned the free resource for local entrepreneurs who were serious about getting help with their business concept,” she recalls. “We scheduled a meeting with him and he provided the initial counsel, introducing us to the SBDC resources and other SBDC counselors. [The latter] were incredibly experienced, encouraging and supportive, which is, to me, a critical part of launching a business successfully. Having people who are veterans of business provide sound advice while standing on the sidelines cheering for you is priceless.”
Hinterplattner says the SBDC counselors helped her and her husband build confidence in their ideas and were instrumental in connecting them with businesses that were interested in learning more about their service capabilities. The SBDC also encouraged them to showcase their marketing knowledge with other area businesses through speaking engagements and other networking events.
The experience was so positive for Hinterplattner that she became an SBDC consultant two years after first seeking assistance. “I wanted to give back to my community,” she explains. “My social media and online marketing knowledge are in high demand for small business owners who typically can’t afford consultants or an agency like mine.”
To be sure, an SBDC is not the cure for a struggling small business that requires a more intensive overhaul. There are limits to what an SBDC can provide in terms of service and duration. Entrepreneurs who are contemplating using an SBDC as a resource should consider the following tips:
Find counselors who specialize in your sector
Denise Breeson, a 10-year SBDC counselor who teaches small business management at Santa Rosa Jr. College in Santa Rosa, California, says finding a counselor who understands your industry is critical. “They need to match their business type with the expertise of the counselor,” she advises. “Some counselors have direct experience in the field; others do not.”
Go to this page for more info: http://smallbusinessonlinecommunity.bankofamerica.com/community/running-your-business/starting-your-business/blog/2012/09/13/back-to-school-why-small-business-development-centers-can-be-a-great-resource-for-entrepreneurs