The Small Business Development Center at Columbus State Community College has a robust offering of resources for small businesses with an attractive price tag – free. From an entrepreneur with an idea to an established business, Certified Business Advisors help an owner with everything from starting a business to deciding if it’s time to sell.
The SBDC has been advising small businesses in Central Ohio since 1986, partnering with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce from its inception until 2003, then partnering with Columbus State in 2004. In a 10-month span alone from October 2012 to June 2013, the center served 517 clients, offering over 1,300 advising session resulting in 44 new local businesses.
The SBDC is composed of four specialty centers.
- – SBDC – supports general business development and growth.
- – SBDC Export – develops export opportunities in global markets.
- – SBDC Manufacturing – specializes in helping manufacturers achieve excellence.
- – SBDC Latino – provides business services in Spanish.
The Certified Business Advisors at the center can help a business looking to start in any industry, or those that are established with fewer than 500 employees. Clients are matched with advisors based on the advisor’s background as well as their needs. While their certification gives them the knowledge to handle any business, SBDC’s advisors have experience in finance, venture capitalism, marketing, manufacturing and Latino affairs.
Advising is just one service of the SBDC.
“We have one-on-one training and over 150 training events per year,” says Program Coordinator Tonya Wilson. Personalized advising services at the SBCD are free, fitting perfectly into the tight budget of a small business or startup. Many of the events are designed to augment the information received during one-on-one appointments.
If a client is starting from the ground up and isn’t ready for an individualized appointment, they are encouraged to attended the monthly BizStartNow classes. The classes start on the first Tuesday of the month and run for three consecutive weeks, covering a broad range of topics, including:
- – Day 1 – Small business ownership, market research, marketing and sales
- – Day 2 – Business legal structure, operations and financing
- – Day 3 – Small business tax workshop
Clients are provided abundant information in a short amount of time with the goal of gaining a clearer picture of what it takes to run a business.
“It gets them to a more realistic understanding,” says Wilson.
The next step is scheduling an appointment with an advisor.
Advising sessions aren’t just for new businesses. Established owners can seek advice on topics like selling or passing on a business, and find answers to questions like should I keep operating? If possible, advisers will look for ways clients can restructure their business.
New and established businesses can benefit from the many other events and workshops the SBDC organizes. There are monthly sessions for minority and women-owned business certifications. The classes take an owner through the certification process step by step.
Three-tiered seminars take clients through practical applications of business segments like, marketing, product design, funding and human resources. Quarterly events dive in to similar topics as well as social media.
The SBDC sponsors the annual Ohio Growth Summit. Next year marks the 10th anniversary for the event that brings small business owners together for an interactive day of learning. A variety of speakers offer advice that owners can implement to achieve greater success.
“We make sure you can benefit from [the summit] when you leave that day,” Wilson says.
Sponsors like Columbus State, TechColumbus and the U.S. Small Business Administration keep the SBDC helping small businesses. But, the SBDC is motivated to build businesses – their clients’ success is directly tied to their success.
With this model, the SBDC does not have funding dollars for startups, but they can assist businesses in getting capital.
“We build relationships with bankers and vendors in the area,” Wilson says. As for clients, “We can help them better partner and have a better chance at getting a loan.”
The SBDC has a plethora of information useful to any small business owner.
“We’re like your business partner, only better,” Wilson says.
For more information, visit sbdccolumbus.com.