Big advice for your small business

The Arizona SBDC network is the largest and most accessible source of assistance to Arizona businesses with fewer than 200 employees.

by Bruce L. Hodgman — 

Besides inadequate access to capital, perhaps the single most important obstacle to small business success is the lack of technical and management assistance, including access to timely and accurate information, counseling and business training.

The Small Business Development Center is a core U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offering that is critical to entrepreneurial success. If you are considering starting your own business or encounter problems with an existing business, the SBDC program can help you navigate the road to success by guiding you through the critical steps to business triumph.

This program provides counseling and training to those who want to start a small business and to existing small business owners. In Arizona, the SBDC program is a cooperative effort between SBA and the Maricopa Community College System’s SBDC Network. It enhances economic development in Arizona by providing entrepreneurs with management and technical assistance. And it’s free.

The Arizona SBDC network is the largest and most accessible source of assistance to Arizona businesses with fewer than 200 employees. It was formed in 1988 and has 11 centers throughout the state. The network is a joint collaboration between education and government. The network is designed to deliver up-to-date counseling, training and technical assistance in all aspects of small business management. SBDC assistance is tailored to each local community and to the individual needs of clients.

Each center is staffed with trained business counseling professionals. Maricopa Community College System is responsible to the SBA for the overall quality of the network’s services. SBDC centers are available to provide you with insightful information and valuable advice on how to start or grow your small business.

The SBDC Program can help entrepreneurs live their dreams of business ownership, just as it did for White Mountain Labs in Phoenix. In 1999, with $25,000, Dr. Brenda McCaffrey started White Mountain Labs, a business that today has clients from around the world. Sales have grown from $200,000 in the first year to $1.7 million last year, and are expected to break the $2 million barrier in 2007.

McCaffrey states that she could not have done this without the SBA. A recipient of $1.6 million from six SBA loans, she used the funds to purchase high-tech equipment and working capital. Currently, the company is in the process of purchasing property for the construction of a new facility that also will be financed through an SBA 504 loan. As a result of her extensive experience with SBA loan programs and the detailed nature of the SBA loan process, McCaffrey has become ultimately more detail-oriented in her business, which in turn has aided her success.

Counseling and training assistance from an SBDC is available to anyone interested in starting a small business for the first time, or improving or expanding an existing small business. The SBDC program makes a special effort to reach minority members of socially and economically disadvantaged groups, veterans, women and the disabled. Assistance also is provided to small businesses applying for Small Business Innovation and Research grants from federal agencies.

SBDC sites are located throughout the state. Visit www.sba.gov/az/az_counselingt.html and click on the “Directions To” link in order to find the location nearest you. For more information about starting or growing a business, visit www.sba.gov.

 

Bruce L. Hodgman is the Deputy Director of the SBA in Arizona. bruce.hodgman@sba.gov.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 2, April/May 2007.

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