Located on the Cleveland State Community College campus, the center serves five counties — Bradley, Polk, McMinn, Monroe and Meigs. It is now the third-largest such center in the state of Tennessee.
Five areas top the TSBDC’s goals and/or major accomplishments.
No. 1 —“Capital formation,” which means providing technical help for various lending organizations, is near the top of the list at the local TSBDC.
“We assist in providing help for small businesses to obtain federal and state loan programs,” said Robert Hotchkiss, small-business specialist at TSBDC. “We know the programs.”
“We know what shoe fits,” said Chapin Miller, small business specialist.
For example, in the first nine months of 2011, the Cleveland office actively helped 26 business owners get financing totaling $9,718,094. Eleven who were helped attributed sales increases totaling $1,591,587 to TSBDC’s assistance. Thirty-seven owners invested $24,760,983 in equity capital and 246 had $61,825,718 in annual sales. And, a total of $36,342,877 in capital formation was created so far this year.
“We’re drawing on a combined 90 years of financial and institutional experience,” said David Hudson, director.
“We’re drawing on relationships and contacts,” said Alisha Rice, information processing specialist.
One such program is the Business Enterprise Resource Office, or BERO. It helps expand economic opportunities for small, rural, minority and women-owned businesses in Tennessee, as well as providing technical, financial and management information for both start-ups and existing diversity businesses.
“And for service vets with a service related disability, we have specific loans designated for that,” Hudson said.
And in today’s banking environment, Hotchkiss said, there’s an even greater need for access to loans.
And getting loans largely depends on whether or not the loan will create jobs, Hudson said.
“Job formation is the highest criteria — a priority, not a requirement — to getting loans,” Hudson said.
No. 2 — Job creation and job retention are equally as important as securing capital.
According to the center’s latest figures, as a result of its counseling program, 27 new businesses were started so far this year creating 184 new jobs. In addition, 227 existing jobs were saved thanks to the center’s counseling services.
A total of 437 clients were helped so far this year for a total of 1,701.6 counseling hours.
But before a company can expand, owners should go to TSBDC to get help with techniques of financial analysis to determine whether or not it even makes sense to expand.
Owners need such perspective, “Before jumping in and ... betting the farm for something that isn’t going to work out,” Miller said. But if they determine it is profitable, the TSBDC can help them find federal and state programs, as well as commercial lenders based on the guarantees of these government programs. Expert help from the TSBDC getting loans to expand is even more critical in these economic times.
“It’s harder to get a loan now than three years ago,” Hudson said.
Reaching rural areas is another aspect of the counseling program the local office will be emphasizing, according to Hudson, its director.
“Historically, rural areas have been underserved due to lack of time and staff,” he said. “Now, with two ex-bankers with extensive banking experience, we’re increasing our outreach to rural counties like Polk, McMinn, Meigs and Monroe.”
And the center expects to be fully staffed by the end of the year by adding a full-time small business specialist, replacing the position Hudson just left by becoming director.
“We will be interviewing for another full-time small business counselor to be hired by the end of the year,” Hudson said.
A another marketing specialist, Lisa Janes, just came back to work a few days ago, eventually making a team of six.
No. 3 — Training is a crucial part of the center’s outreach. This year alone, the center has offered 47 programs, attracting 464 participants or roughly 80 percent of this year’s goals.
“This is important because we are giving our clients valuable training from experts,” Miller said.
Hudson, however, anticipates exceeding this year’s projected goals.
And almost all are free, which surprises most people.
“If you had to buy all this information from a consultant, 99 percent of people wouldn’t have the money,” Miller said. “And since it’s free, people should take advantage of it to get as much knowledge as they can.”
For example, on Monday, a seminar will be given on how to sell to the federal government, particularly important because government procurement has changed over the past year.
Only the QuickBooks seminars — both beginner and intermediate — given every few months requires a fee. Every small business needs an accurate and simple financial software program, which is what QuickBooks is. The beginners class will be taught by a skilled CPA expert in QuickBooks on Oct. 20 and the intermediate class on Nov. 17. The instructor will provide all the equipment, including the computers, but students can bring their own if they already own the QuickBooks program.
“Information is power,” Rice said.
No. 4 — The local TSBDC has worked with CSCC providing staff in Diversity Initiatives, as well as at the college’s Culture Fair, Career Day and Business & Industry department events.
For example, on CSCC’s Career Day, TSBDC set up a table, gave out information on the center’s services to college students who were thinking of starting their own businesses.
Hudson has also given workshops and seminars to CSCC classes, local high schools and through satellite campuses.
No. 5 — Another significant feature of Cleveland’s TSBDC that sets them apart from most of the other 13 offices across the state of Tennessee is its Spanish-speaking director, Hudson.
“We give business counseling to residents in the area who prefer to converse in Spanish rather than English,” Hudson said. “That’s quite a number of business owners. It’s a very underserved population.”
In addition, Hudson not only knows how to start businesses from the ground up here in the States, he also knows how to start and run businesses in Honduras and Guatemala. This allows him a unique perspective in helping others with international businesses.
But according to the TSBDC, whether or not a current or potential entrepreneur takes advantage of all the free services and help available through Cleveland’s center, one of the first steps any business owner needs is a business plan. A plan is necessary when making a presentation to a financial institution for a loan, etc. And although every business plan is unique to each individual business, there are basic elements that need to be addressed, which TSBDC can help answer.
— “A Summary of the Business,” such as a brief description of the business, the market, the management team and their experience, etc.
— “A Company and Industry Description,” such as what the product and/or the service is, company guidelines, the legal form of the business, and short- and long-term goals, etc.
— “Marketing,” such as the description of the market-size, growth rate, market to be targeted, who makes the buying decisions, etc.
— “Production,” such as facilities and equipment required, the capacity and output targets, and the sources of raw material and supplies, etc.
— “Personnel,” such as who is responsible for finance, marketing, production and management, who is accountable to whom, additional personnel, and personnel policies.
— “Finance,” including the continuation of trends, competitors’ responses, technology changes, customer needs, etc.
For more information or to register for classes, call the TSBDC at 478-6247 and/or check out www.tsbdc.org.