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Onondaga Small Business Development Center guides CNY entrepreneurs

By Eric Reinhardt


ONONDAGA — The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Onondaga Community College (OCC) serviced nearly 1,000 entrepreneur clients in its most-recent fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

“We helped them create or save 400 jobs in our six-county region,” says Joan Powers, director of the SBDC at OCC.

The SBDC is located inside Mulroy Hall at 4926 Onondaga Road in the town of Onondaga, across from the OCC campus.

The SBDC also has satellite offices in all of the six counties it serves in Central New York, including Onondaga, southern Oswego, Cayuga, western Madison, Cortland, and Seneca, according to its marketing brochure.

“We provide free and confidential counseling for individuals looking to start a business or [for] existing businesses looking to grow,” says Powers.

The SBDC, which has operated at OCC for the past 30 years, has nine employees, including Powers.

The SBDC is part of a nationwide network and is one of 24 such centers in New York that typically operate on community-college campuses, says Powers.

The State University of New York administers the SBDC, while the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the State of New York, and host campuses fund the centers, according to the website of the New York SBDC.

The SBA annually provides “the funding for most of our programs,” including salaries and operations, says Powers, declining to disclose the amount of funding the federal agency provides.

SBDC resources and services
The SBDC is a resource partner for the SBA. Other such SBA resource partners include SCORE, an organization of retired business executives, and the WISE Women’s Business Center.

The SBDC offers free, one-on-one, confidential counseling with one of its business advisors. The counseling includes advice on securing an employer-identification number and analyzing an entrepreneur’s business idea and determining if it is “feasible,” says Powers.

The SBDC works with people who want to start their own business, to determine if moving forward is in their best interest. The organization will help the clients determine a financial projection and figure out how much revenue they’ll need to generate annually to pay their bills.

“We give them … a road map of what they need to get done to get to where they want to be, so we help them with all those steps, and then some of them do it and some of them don’t … We don’t push them,” she adds.

Powers also noted that an entrepreneur’s effort to secure operating capital isn’t “so easy.”

The organization will help the client assemble a business plan, determine financial projections, and find the proper funding mechanism for operating capital, which “might not be a bank.”

“It might be a special program or a private investor,” she adds.

The SBDC also offers classes that are available at OCC, including a three-day class called, “Fast Track to Business Start-Up.” Class participants get to hear from speakers that include an attorney, accountant, insurance agent, and speakers who focus on social media and website design.

Other classes for advanced entrepreneurs focus on the QuickBooks accounting software and using social media and websites, Powers says.

The SBDC’s clients include people attempting to launch a business, those who want to supplement their income, and people who are building a part-time business in the hope they can eventually leave their full-time job to focus on their business idea full time.

Some clients have been in business for several years and are looking to launch a new product, recreate their marketing plan, or prepare to hire an employee.

“We have no limit on how long we can meet with a client, so some of them we meet with on and off for three years … and then maybe at that point, they might be ready to start their business,” says Powers.

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