Auburn business owners offered free guidance at new SBDC branch

By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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For the past few years, small businesses needing training and guidance could call on the Small Business Development Center at Sierra College’s Gateway campus in Roseville. Now the program has been taken over by the Los Rios Community College District, which has established a satellite office in Auburn. “(Sierra) came to us and said, ‘would you like to host?’ and our college said, absolutely we would like to serve the business community,’” said Greater Sierra SBDC director Panda Morgan. Los Rios and Sierra College are collaborating on the effort, which serves Placer, Nevada, Sierra, Plumas, Sacramento, El Dorado and Yolo counties. Los Rios took charge of the program on July 1 and Morgan has been busy getting everything in place. The Auburn site shares building space with SEDCorp — Sierra Economic Development Corporation, which specializes in business loans and training. “We wanted to partner with SEDCorp,” Morgan said. “That was the purpose of (choosing that site). When the opening next to SEDCorp became available, we jumped at it.” Auburn is also more convenient to the county’s SBDC services, she added. “We serve startups, emerging businesses and business expansion through workshops and one-on-one consulting,” she said. The Auburn office is staffed by one employee and 22 consultants. Online consulting will be added within the next month, Morgan said. “We have a contract with a company already to provide the service,” she said. “It’s just a matter of getting it up and going.” Clients can get help with a variety of aspects, including business plans, financials and loan assistance. The slow economy has increased traffic into the SBDC. “What we’re working on a lot now is trying to keep businesses open,” Morgan said. “It’s really spending time with them, looking at their financial situation, expenditures and working on marketing — expanding marketing and offering different products and services — trying to be really creative with them.” The consultations are free and confidential. Morgan’s advice to businesses that may be experiencing difficulties is to act sooner rather than later. “Don’t wait too late,” she said. “Don’t wait until we can’t help you any longer. In this economy, I can’t think of hardly a business that shouldn’t be coming to us. If nothing else, it would be to have another set of eyes and ears just to go over what the business is doing. Are you doing everything you should be doing? Sometimes a second opinion is a good thing.” The SBDC is funded through the Small Business Administration. The center, which is based in Sacramento, offers a variety of workshops. Upcoming sessions in Auburn include an SBA Financing Options class on Oct. 26, Cash Management for Small Businesses on Oct. 27 and a Business Basics class on Oct. 28. Cost for a three-hour workshop is $40. One of SBDC’s recent clients is Whole Person Learning Center in Auburn. Owners Joseph and Christina Nicholson provide living and work skills training for youth. “We work with transitional ages – 14 to 26 — primarily youth from foster, group-home care and other youth in the community connected with child welfare, probation or mental health services,” Christina Nicholson said. The Nicholsons began working with SBDC for assistance with sustainability and diversification. “We’re talking about our vision and goals,” she said. “We listen to youth in all their areas, help them identify their goals and walk alongside them as they achieve the goals. That’s what SBDC is doing for us. They’re listening to us and helping to find our goals and empowering us to move forward into our future.” Whole Person Learning Center was established in 1985 and the Nicholsons have owned it for 10 years. “The (SBDC consultant) has been very helpful, kind of giving us more clarity and looking at all we have to offer the community and how to market that better,” Nicholson said. Reach Gloria Young at -------------------------------- Northeastern California Small Business Development Center — Greater Sierra Where: Auburn satellite office, 560 Wall St., Suite K, Auburn Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday Phone: (530) 823-8459 Website: