By Louisa L. Miller, Business Consultant
The economic fate of the nation often does not reflect the environment and activity in the High Desert. Small business growth has been slow since the Great Recession across the country ,and the uncertainties caused by changes in national and local government, for better or for worse, make business and banking more cautious. Uncertainty is the hobgoblin of business growth. The interest folks in the High Desert have for starting and growing their small businesses is strong.
The Inland Empire Small Business Development Center notes that the top startup business categories include food services/restaurants, retail, consulting and fitness-related businesses. These categories look a lot like they did a decade ago. In some ways that is a concern because of relatively low pay, but the upside is that our region consumes a lot of retail offerings. There is opportunity for small manufacturing-and logistics-related services that can be supported by local infrastructure and personnel.
Those wishing to take advantage of the older and newer opportunities need to look for problems that exist and bring solutions that solve problems that people care about to the table. It is also important for them to be passionate about what they do and not just be in it for the money. A key component of working with startup businesses is assisting them in the feasibility process in evaluating the business environment, identification of customers, as well as establishing their business legal structure. In short, there needs to be evidence that supports the business idea.
Existing businesses counseled sought assistance with business expansion, working capital, equipment or real estate purchase loans; business management and marketing. The IESBDC assists them with gathering market and financial data to support their business expansion, loan, etc. In addition, assistance is provided with the development of financial projections based on proposed business growth expected from the expanded operations or funding. It is also important to assist existing business with a feasibility analysis to ensure that the proposed expansion will be profitable and generate positive cash flow.
Client sessions cover a variety of topics based on the client’s specific needs and can touch on things such as: how to start; being an entrepreneur; business planning for expansion and marketing/advertising. The top areas of counseling are: Sources of Capital, Startup Assistance, Business Planning and Marketing. Client referrals come from a variety of sources, including banks, government agencies, chambers of commerce and client word of mouth. These businesses include light manufacturing, restaurants, automotive service/repair, janitorial, retail, Internet-based businesses, home -based businesses, landscaping, coffee shops, gift shops, and residential care facilities.
In 2016, with the establishment of outreach offices at the Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce and the City of Hesperia, individuals seeking to use the services of the IESBDC were given the opportunity to choose one of two locations to meet with Business Consultant Louisa Miller. During 2016 the IESBDC offered 13 seminars and workshops in the High Desert covering such areas a pre-business planning, marketing/sales, accounting/budgets, business loans, QuickBooks and tax planning. In addition, in late fall a Business Focus/Boot Camp-style series was hosted at the Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce offices. The 4-part series included the following topics: Open for Business; Understanding Your Financials; Marketing Your Small Business; and Marketing Technologies to Attract Customers.
Currently, there are 10 seminars scheduled for 2017. Anyone interested in registering for one of the High Desert seminars or others scheduled throughout the two-county area can go the IESBDC’s website, www.iesmallbusiness.com, and click on the Training section.
The Inland Empire Small Business Development Center is a cooperative program of the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship and is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and California State University Fullerton and extended to the public on a non-discriminatory basis. To learn more about the program or to schedule an appointment, call Louisa at 951-295-4183.