5 Reasons you should be!
A startup owners perspective and experience.
During October of 2015 my family and I decided that we wanted to open a business in our hometown of Jacksonville, North Carolina. We had thought about starting a business over our many years in Onslow County but had always been wracked by two things, fear, and doubt. Fear of failure is a powerful motivator to never take that first step into the world of entrepreneurship. Doubts of all kinds filled our heads and hearts when we were formulating our idea. Doubt if there was a market for our business model. Doubt that we would be making good decisions. Doubt in our own skills and abilities to actually make this happen. Doubt that our business was a good fit for our community. So many doubts that we felt paralyzed and were in need of guidance and assistance. Enter the Small Business Center (SBC) at Coastal Carolina Community College.
We had known through our years in this county that there was a resource available for us to begin the journey into the business world. We had even had passing contact when we had previously considered starting a business. We had known of them but we had not known how helpful they would be in getting our venture going. This group of dedicated professionals have been a cornerstone of getting our business, Cracked it! Escape Games LLC, open and prospering. So, for the life of me I cannot understand why there is not more participation from fledgling and experienced business people in the programs that the SBC provides. As business owners approaching our one year anniversary we want to endorse the SBC and encourage others thinking about starting a business to go and visit, meet with and get involved with the SBC. Here are 5 key reasons that every entrepreneur should take advantage of this incredible resource.
1. Counselling -
From the moment that we sought the help of the SBC we have been involved with a dedicated counselor. During our initial interview with our counselor he wanted us to be able to clearly articulate the business idea and what kind of research we had done prior to our meeting. Our idea was initially met with skepticism because it was something new to the area and public awareness of Escape Rooms was at the time very minimal. During the course of our initial counseling session we were able to show that we had conducted some level of market research, We had an idea of the potential for monthly income, we had an idea of initial start-up costs and had the very basics of a business plan formulated. With this information our counselor was able to give us clear direction and where we should go next. This included further market and demographic research, conducting a break even analysis, forecasting projections and ideas to secure funding. All of this from one session. We now had a road map that we could follow to getting our business open.
2. Training –
I often hear business people bemoan the fact that they don’t know how to do something, but when I ask have they taken a class or training on the subject they answer No! The second greatest opportunity available through the Small Business Center Network is the volume of classes, lectures, and seminars that are available on a very wide variety of topics.
We took our first seminar almost exactly 1 year ago to the day that I write this! October 13th, 2015 we took the class The ABC’s of Small Business. This valuable class gave us a great overview of many of the areas that we needed to be thinking about as we were working towards getting our business plan together. In this one seminar I picked up tips on planning, marketing, demographics, incurring debt, competitive analysis and the most important parts of a business plan. ALL OF THIS IN ONE SEMINAR!
Every month the SBCN hosts seminars across the state at many of the community college network campuses. When a business owner enrolls as a client in the SBC the whole menu of classes is available, the only thing that is invested is time to make the trip. Here is a very brief list of the classes available in the this October in the SBC network. The ABC’s of Small Business, Introduction to Quickbooks Pro for Small Business, YouTube Made Easy, Small Business Email Marketing: A Crash Course, The Best Small Businesses to Start Right Now. Every month there are classes in all aspects of starting and running a successful business. There is not one class that I have attended where I did not leave with at least one helpful hint, tip, suggestion or action plan that has not directly impacted how we run and manage our business.
3. Advocacy for your business –
It’s great to have cheerleaders! The staff of the SBC are great advocates for the wide variety of business that pass through their doors. From their initial involvement with us they have been encouraging every step of the way. They have celebrated our milestones as we grew our business from an idea to opening. They have helped us grow our brand in the business community and encouraged us to get even more involved in the SBC. They have only one true desire and that is to see every business succeed. In my short association with the SBC I have seen personally the level of commitment that the staff has to the business community and the citizens of Onslow County. As the saying goes, a rising tide raises all boats. The SBC is the tide, and we business owners are the boats. The SBC is a voice for economic development of women owned, veteran owned, minority owned and Disabled Person owned business. The value of the resources that they provide cannot be understated. They are there for you as a business owner and with you as a citizen every step of the way.
4. Networking Opportunities-
Every class or seminar starts with an opportunity for us as business owners to give our “elevator pitch”. That is tell a bit about ourselves, our business, and why others would want to business with us. This small exercise repeated every time has helped us nail down the elevator pitch for Cracked it! Escape Games. It has also given us an opportunity to establish firm contacts in the business community that can be leveraged in a wide array of fields. There are social network marketers, construction companies, tax attorneys, bookkeepers, web developers, businesses from nearly every facet of the community at nearly every seminar. These contacts are invaluable. If I need to know how to enhance my web presence, there is someone I can call for advice. If I need tax assistance there is someone I can call for advice. If I need insurance information, there is someone I can call for advice. By participating frequently in SBC classes and seminars we have grown our business connection network ten-fold. This also helps with awareness of our business in the community.
5. Cost- It’s Free!
The resources of the SBC are funded by the North Carolina government and the US Small Business Administration. The classes are NO or LOW COST! We make it a mission to attend as many of these classes as we can because they are VALUABLE! The seminars are presented by professionals and experts in their field. The information if sought elsewhere could often cost several hundreds of dollars. We have learned so many tips, hints, and strategies to improve our business, ALL FOR FREE.
When I attend a seminar that has seats for up to 50 people and the attendance is so few, I ask myself why? When business owners are struggling with marketing but don’t take advantage of this resource, I ask myself why? When a new entrepreneur has a great idea for the next big thing and does not seek out the help of the SBC, I ask myself why? What have you got to lose?