By Robyn A. Friedman
It’s the New Year — a time for resolutions, diets, exercise programs and promises. Not surprisingly, it’s also a time for many would-be entrepreneurs to make the jump into small business ownership.
Sadly, U.S. Small Business Administration statistics indicate that only about half of these new ventures will survive for five years or more. But there are resources in the local community here in South Florida that can help new business owners beat the odds — and most of the advice they offer is free.
“We’ll work with people at any point from pre-venture to established companies looking to expand,” says Ted Kramer, regional director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Palm Beach State College in Boca Raton. “We’re here to help.”
With over 900 locations nationwide, SBDCs offer free one-on-one counseling and seminars to current and future entrepreneurs.
Janine Coxwell is one local executive who has been consulting with the analysts at her local SBDC on and off for eight months. “They point us on the right road each time,” says Coxwell, general director of A1A Access Solutions, a medical equipment distributor that launched in April 2013. “They’re like an encyclopedia of information for small businesses, but it’s free.”
Other local resources that offer no- or low-cost counseling include:
SCORE, a national network of over 13,000 entrepreneurs and executives, many retired, who volunteer to mentor those looking to start or grow a business.
Chambers of Commerce, which charge membership fees but which are particularly helpful for networking and business building. “Often folks think that all they have to do is join the Chamber, go to a few networking events and hand out business cards and they will get sales,” says Rafael Cruz, regional director of SBDC Fort Lauderdale. “It does not work that way.” New business owners need to get involved and develop customer relationships based on trust and expertise, he added.
There are many additional local resources offering free or low-cost consulting, counseling and mentoring, including some that provide specialized services for women, minorities and veterans. A list, plus more information for the budding entrepreneur, can be found in Small Business Resource, an SBA publication available at sba.gov/sites/default/files/files/resourceguide_3109.pdf.