Pretty much everyone dreams of starting or owning a small business at some point in her or his life. Doing it successfully can be very rewarding. However, there can be many sleepless nights as a business owner. The same goes for starting a business.
Most people struck by the entrepreneurial spirit have a unique idea or great technical skills but very little marketing, management or financial skill. For most, it takes every penny they can scrape up and borrow just to get the business off the ground.
Even though hiring professional help like a consultant or mentor should be on top of their list, it often gets pushed way down. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could bring on board highly educated and talented business consultants to help you? Best yet, what if they were free?
I know this sounds like one of those late night infomercials and the catch is coming, right? This time it is not too good to be true – it is true.
A few years ago, Georgia Southern University’s College of Business Administration made a commitment to have a presence downtown. Known as the “city campus” adjacent to city hall on main street, the campus houses a wealth of resources for our community which come under the Business Innovation Group “BIG” umbrella.
BIG is led by Dr. Dominique Halaby who is recognized internationally for his work in business innovation centers and business development. He had a vision of creating a one-stop shop for small business owners and entrepreneurs. There are currently seven entities housed together, which together make BIG tick. Each of them bring different resources as local entrepreneurs. Three provide critical resources that every business should be engaging are The Small Business Development Center, SCORE and the Veterans Business Outreach Center.
“Our goal is to help create a platform and ownership of driving the Eco System for entrepreneurship for Bulloch and the region,” said Dr. Halaby, BIG Director. “We understand how challenging starting or owning a business can be. Bring us your ideas and let us help you figure out the rest”.
This is the first time that all of these key partner agencies have been brought under one umbrella. The model has garnered the attention of the Small Business Administration and others nationally because of its success.
The Business Development Center is a unique partnership with Georgia Southern and the University of Georgia. There are 17 similar offices in Georgia. The Statesboro office is led by Valarie Cote and covers the Statesboro and Savannah Market.
One of the vast tools in the Center’s tool kit is providing you the resources to help guide you through Small Business Administration-backed loans. They want to help you grow your existing business and give you tools and resources you need to take your business to the next level. They also have a statewide network to help connect you with others in your industry so you can benefit from best practices.
SCORE is a mentoring program led by a volunteer director, Gary Johnson, who is a retired executive. SCORE pulls in volunteers from all areas of business, many of whom are retired and looking for new challenges. They match mentors with local businesses or entrepreneurs to help them get their business off the ground or take it to the next level. Dr. Rick Stapleton, the retired director of COBA’s Small Business Institute and Jeff Gramm, a local realtor, are two locals who are available for mentoring.
SCORE is looking for others to join them in building the local chapter. This is a wonderful opportunity for successful business owners or retired executives to give back.
The Veterans Business Outreach Center is led by Jeremy Horstman who is also currently serving as a major in the Georgia National Guard. This center serves the entire state of Georgia and South Carolina with a goal to assist transitioning service men and women and their families back into civilian life. The Outreach Center gives veterans the tools and resources needed to start their own business.
The Veterans Center recently partnered with the Coastal Worksource Georgia in creating a pilot Veterans Entrepreneurial program. The program is specifically designed for veterans and allows them to learn every part of the process of starting a business. From writing business plans to learning about loan documents and other critical areas of business knowledge needed to ensure success. Also, each veteran is matched with a mentor. The hope is that the veteran will launch a business at the completion of the program.
Some of you are probably still wondering how this can all be free. The leaders who designed these programs understand that, in the end, if your business is successful and continues to grow, then you will contribute back to our local economy in a variety of ways. More importantly, as your business grows, you will need more employees creating more opportunity for others.
To learn more about the City Campus and Business Innovation Center visit their website at http://cob.georgiasouthern.edu/big/ or stop in at 58 East Main Street, Suite D.