SBDC big help for fledgling companies

For startups that need a jump start, the Nevada Small Business Development Center offers a range of services from free consultations to guidance on accessing capital.

Headquartered at the University of Nevada, Reno, College of Business, the Center recently marked its 30th anniversary last month with the original director still at the helm and, not surprisingly, looking forward to the next 30.

“I wrote the (original) proposal for this,” said Sam Males, director for the Nevada SDBC, which has become the state’s go-to resource for small business owners. Support came from the highest levels of Nevada government.

Then-Lieutenant Gov. Bob Cashell and later the mayor of Reno, helped champion the creation of the SBDC, said Males. “He helped get the necessary support,” said Males of the political leader, who was also a business owner.

Males attributes the Center’s longevity to partnerships with groups such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives and the U.S. Small Business Administration, which provides 50 percent of its annual funding.

With 14 centers across the state, the organization serves businesses in urban and rural communities helping them to grow and succeed, said Males.

The SDBCs in Nevada are part of a nationwide network providing educational services to small-business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Over the past year, the Centers have helped open 136 new small businesses in the state, said Males. Of that number, perhaps 60-70 percent were in northern Nevada.

“These smaller businesses created 470 jobs and nearly $19 million in new financing, clearly making a marked impact,” said Males.

The centers provide, at no cost, business plan writing, marketing, assistance with loan applications and other counseling services.

Not all small businesses are tech startups with white boards and mobile devices working in the latest incubator space.

The vast majority are bread and butter businesses.

Most clients are working — or want to enter — the service and retail industries, said Males. Some have an eye on setting up a manufacturing business.

“These people who come through our doors are those who want to be self-employed and want to make a smart, successful living in a business of their own design,” said Males.

Another key service is providing a startup with a consultant who can help develop a business plan and offer guidance in launching, Males said.

Locally, the SBDC draws on the knowledge and education of UNR College of Business students. Graduate and undergraduate students provide co-counseling, market research and help develop marketing and business plans for clients.

Students provide businesses with valuable insights into how best to capture younger demographics and they teach clients about how to reach people via technology, especially how to create or beef up a business’ online presence.

“We don’t make the case (for the business), but we help lead them (clients) to a conclusion” of its feasibility, said Males of the education, information and support offered.

Sometimes the most importance advice the consultant can offer is whether someone should even try to start a business; helping a would-be entrepreneur figure out whether they’re suited to run a company is important.

Hopefully, it’s a well-thought out decision, said Males.

“It’s all about helping them determine if this is a good fit for the next chapter of their lives,” said Males, adding that this kind of gut check is pivotal.

What is particularly gratifying is seeing former clients return with established enterprises, but now they are ready to take the business into a new direction and secure additional funding, he said.

“If they have questions, we are here for them,” said Males. “Sort of like a silent partner.”


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