Wealth of resources for startups
The northern Nevada startup business culture has recently reached an unprecedented level of energy, and the region has responded with a wealth of information and resources to aid aspiring entrepreneurs as they acquire the skills, tools and relationships that drive successful new enterprises.
A good place to chart your course to a successful strategy is the SBDC — the Small Business Development Center at UNR. This non-profit organization has 14 statewide locations and is celebrating 30 years helping entrepreneurs get on track for success in Nevada, says Kathy Carrico, statewide training director for the organization.
“We celebrate small business every year, every day,” she said.
“Sam Males, our state director, wrote the initial white paper 30 years ago and brought a SBDC to the state of Nevada through the University of Nevada, Reno. We do primary one-on-one counseling and provide resources and training at no cost to the entrepreneur.”
What is the most important strategy for success?
Carrico said, “Be smart! Lots of people come in and we try to help them understand the challenges and the insurmountable amount of work there is in running a business.”
What is the first skill to master?
“Data. Data is gold. This is the era of data,” said Carrico. “I celebrate 20 years with SBDC myself this year and you learn a lot through osmosis, through counselors and business owners. You want to understand why businesses fail so you can help them bypass those issues.
“Number one is that a lot of times people don’t identify a target market — much less go after it ‘Targeting’ is identifying the people who will use your product or service and is key to deploying successful marketing and advertising that will invite people into your business.
“The data will point you in the right direction, but where do you get that data? What’s pretty cool is that the U.S. Census Bureau has been around forever. Eric Coyle is the new guy in Nevada and he loves data. Thing is, you look at the literally tens of thousands of pages on the U.S. Census website and you can get a bit dizzy. We can help you get over that,” she said.
So how do you get the information you need?
“You come to our workshops,” Carrico said. “We provide the workshop Market Research for Small Businesses. It is very focused. If someone is looking for demographic information that really allows them to understand whether they’re doing traditional retail or online, where are my people and how do I find them?
“On the census databases you can really filter all sorts of categories and profile your ideal customer,” she added. “Go to this workshop (it’s three hours), it’s free and will help you understand the importance and value of the information and how to find it.”
The details are easily available at SBDC.org and the entire training calendar is there along with programs designed for every different level of small business start-up, including Boot To Business, the program specific to the needs of veterans’ start-ups.
Doug Erwin, vice president of entrepreneurial development at the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, has a more playful take on promoting successful startup strategy. Inspired by the community’s gaming history and informed by the startup culture of the Silicon Valley, EDAWN has created a set of 52 cards called the Reno Start-Up Deck, where each numbered card features a tip to help educate, inform and connect new and existing entrepreneurs to the area’s resources.
The King of Hearts is Doug’s card and features his likeness, his skill set and email address.
“At the end of the day, economic development is about culture and I work specifically with the start-up community,” Erwin said. “We asked ourselves how do we help people navigate through all the different tools that community offers and there are a ton, obviously… the deck has 52 cards.
“The cards represent the people, places, events and organizations that help support entrepreneurial and startup growth in the community.”
We pulled a card at random — the 10 of clubs — aka the Coffeebar card.
Erwin said it’s one of what are known as “third spaces,” places outside work and home where ideas happen. It’s often said that if you want to promote start-up culture, first build more coffee shops.
“Fuel. It is fuel for the brain,” declared Erwin.
“Caffeine and free Internet are my two criteria for a great idea space” he added.
The deck begins with a joker card that lays out the rules of the game and How To Play.
Erwin emphasizes, “In a word Participate!” The card encourages one to “meet people, go to events, visit the spaces, help a startup and above all, have fun.”
The decks can be purchased online at http://www.renostartupdeck.com and the revenues directly support many of the programs and events listed within the deck.
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.