By Suzanne Schmidt
In the first year of operation it is reported that half of all small businesses fail. The Small Business Development Center offers counseling, seminars and workshops in order to help prevent that failure.
Jerry Karp, certified business analyst for the Small Business Development Center, offers his expertise to help small business start-ups and existing businesses with marketing and sales.
“I have 40 years of experience in sales and marketing,” Karp said. “I was the CEO of two different companies and I had my own business for 15 years. I can help with determining what the target market is and helping the business to focus on marketing to them.”
One of the best ways to prevent failure in the first year is to have a well-written and thought out business plan.
“We have research that states writing a business plan can cut the failure rate by 60 percent,” Karp said. “A lot of entrepreneurs take the leap, but don’t plan. When somebody comes in to get help with a business plan, we write out the idea and do a feasibility study. It gives them a good plan to follow.”
The center helps small businesses with less than 500 employees; most have fewer than 50 employees.
“Our counselors will be able to help with a wide variety of business solutions,” Karp said. “Small business owners looking for help get one-on-one counseling where they can talk about their challenges. They can sit with the counselor with the appropriate experience to find out what they need to get them on the right track. We have 16 counselors with different areas of expertise. Most of the business counselors have small business experience because they have run their own business.”
The counselors areas of expertise include marketing, marketing research, advertising, financial analysis, business planning, family businesses, business valuation and franchises.
The one-on-one business counseling the center offers is free.
“We can do business health checks or help with expansion,” Karp said. “Through the counseling business owners can come in for counseling as many times as they want for as long as they want.”
Helping small businesses succeed is important for the economy of the whole country.
“Many people think the economic engine in the U.S. is driven by big business, but really it is driven by small businesses,” Karp said. “With the economy the way it is, lots of people are looking to start their own business. We are here to help make sure the business is profitable and not making a detrimental mistake.”
David West, executive director of the Wesley Chapel Chamber, said he decided to invite Karp to speak at the chamber’s monthly breakfast earlier this month because he thinks small businesses should know about the center.
“The Wesley Chapel Chamber’s purpose is to help its members find the counsel and services they need to bring their businesses to the next level,” West said. “The small business development council is one of the local organizations that most people are not aware of.”
Karp said he would advise small business owners to contact the center because even if they do not think they need help, there is something the center can do for them. Everything the counselor and business owner talk about is confidential.
“Many small business entrepreneurs want to do everything themselves,” Karp said. “That is where they run into trouble sometimes because they don’t think to reach out for help or they think it is too costly.”
Low cost workshop topics include business taxes, women and minority certification, Small Business Association loans, steps to starting a small business and disaster preparedness. Seminar topics include building the ultimate business plan, bookkeeping, Quickbooks, business taxes, Internet strategies, financing your business and understanding stimulus loans.
One seminar focuses on how to build the ultimate business plan. The cost for the seminar is $90, which is well worth it according to Karp because business owners will leave with a copy of the ultimate business plan software, which costs hundreds of dollars.
Karp said the computer is one of the best resources at the main office, 1101 Channelside Drive, Suite 210 in Tampa.
“We have two computers that are connected to USF’s servers,” Karp said. “With these computers, you get access to sites you wouldn’t have access to unless you paid thousands of dollars each year for the membership.”
Even though currently the seminars are provided at the Channelside office, Karp said he is hoping to start offering seminars in Pasco.
The center is funded through a partnership between the Small Business Association and the University of South Florida. In addition to having an office in Channelside, they have recently opened an office in Lutz at 16506 Pointe Village, Suite 101.
For more information, visit sbdc.usf.edu.
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