Resources address needs of small-business owners

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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The bleak economy hasn’t put a damper on those seeking to start a business. At least that’s the impression based on the visitors to the Sierra College Small Business Development Center in Roseville. “It hasn’t slowed down as far as people taking orientations,” center director Indria Gillespie said recently. “We don’t know if they’re actually starting (businesses), because sometimes they don’t.” At the same time, Gillespie is seeing more distressed businesses. “Sometimes they don’t come in until it is too late,” she said. “They contact us when they’re already four months in arrears. It is too difficult to turn it around at that point.” Gillespie recommends calling on the resources of the SBDC sooner rather than later. “Whatever they’re doing may not have caused the problem, but it may be contributing,” she said. “So often it is good to have that second viewpoint because they may just be spinning their wheels.” The counseling sessions are free, paid for by a grant from the Small Business Administration. And there’s no limit to the number of visits in a year. The program also gets funding through a grant from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office. “All of the counselors own their own business and have for at least 10 years,” Gillespie said. “They’re contractors. So it is not just from a textbook.” The SBDC’s resources include numerous training classes offered at a nominal fee. Starting this month, there’ll be a series of classes for distressed businesses, to be held in Nevada County and Roseville. “There’ll be one-on-one counseling sessions,” Gillespie explained. For startup companies, there are monthly orientations in Roseville and Auburn. Cost is $25. The three-part series covers the basics of how to start a business including licensing and permits. It also delves into some common-sense areas, such as “Do you have the personality to be successful in business?” “It’s kind of like a reality check,” Gillespie said. “Some people think they’re going to make a million dollars or they want to work less hours. Not so.” Participants also learn about marketing and financial aspects of business ownership, including funding sources, reading spreadsheets, income statements and break-even analyses. “Then, if they want to continue, they can meet with a counselor for a business plan,” Gillespie said. Much of the training is only a click away through SBDC online classes. For networking and employment issues, Cindy Burris, business services representative with the Placer County Office of Economic Development, is the go-to expert. Burris tracks trends and opportunities in the job market and keeps current on training, counseling and networking opportunities. She chairs the monthly meetings of the Business Advantage Network and is the point person for the Foothill Employers Advisory Council, which also meets monthly. She also coordinates closely with the state’s Employment Development Department and the One-Stop Career Centers in Roseville and Auburn. “We (recently) had a Small Business Success seminar at the Maidu Community Center,” Burris said. “It discussed how businesses can benefit from government contracting. It was free for businesses with 100 or less employees. We had very good attendance — more than 60 businesses were there. “It was a great resource for how-to. The governor wants 25 percent of bidding to go to small businesses. They’re doing outreach for that.” Burris would like to see outreach to even more businesses. “We’re trying to figure out how to do more forums, maybe even in a larger setting,” she said. Business owners can get training as well as exchange ideas through the Foothill Employers Advisory Council’s monthly meetings in Auburn, where specialists educate the group on employment issues. Downsizing is another area where Burris gets involved. “For employers laying off people, we want to be able to help them, and we also want to be able to help the employees who are losing their jobs,” she said. Layoffs can be tough on employers as well as their employees, but there are ways to buffer the pain. “EDD has a program called Workshare designed so that instead of laying off employees and them going on full unemployment, they can instead have two work part-time and both collect unemployment for the other half day,” Burris said. “Then when business picks up, the companies aren’t losing the expertise of the employees. In certain lines of work, you don’t want to lose that skill set.” The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia. com or comment at ---------- Guidance for small businesses l Sierra College Small Business Development Center — 333 Sunrise Ave., Suite 885, Roseville; phone (916) 781-6235; Web site l Sierra Economic Development Corporation — 560 Wall St., Suite F, Auburn, Phone (530) 823-4703 or Fax (530) 823-4142; Web site l Foothill Employer Advisory Council — Call Cindy Burris at (530) 889-4090, e-mail or see Web 3/foothill eac/