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Governor's Office Small Business Workshop held in Bastrop

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By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer/photographer

Special guest speaker TWC Commissioner Julian Alvarez gave opening remarks. (Terry Hagerty Photo)

Advice from successful local entrepreneurs was a captivating part of the Governor’s Small Business Workshop on Sept. 12 at the Bastrop Convention Center. The event was sponsored by the Bastrop Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) , the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Workforce Commission and the Office of the Texas Governor. Opening remarks were given by Texas Workforce Commissioner Julian Alvarez. He told the audience, “You are the backbone of this Texas economy” and that the Texas economy “is the envy of the nation.” Alvarez also encouraged small business owners to “think outside the box” in developing and growing their businesses.

‘Don’t Wait for Perfect’ – Next, a panel of Bastrop entrepreneurs shared their experiences in starting and growing their business. They included Brenda Abbott of Brenda Abbott Floral Design, Judith Equihua of Ma’Coco restaurant, Devon Michalik of Crosshairs Texas, and Clint Howard of Deep in the Heart Art Foundry. Abbott encouraged audience members to “get your face out there and market your business.” Abbott said she decided early on to focus on generating business through advertising on highway billboards. “Billboards gave us a presence,” she said. “We built our business on a shoe-string budget” and paid expenses “out of our back pocket.” The audience clapped when she said, “We are a totally debt-free business.”

Attendees of the workshop were introduced to many small business resources. Howard said it is paramount for a business to establish its products and services “better than anyone else’s.” Howard said he had a leg up on starting the Art Foundry because “I came from a family of entrepreneurs” and had supervised construction crews when he was 16. With a college degree in sculpture and a $75,000 loan from First National Bank, he started the foundry. The free land parcel to build his business came through the BEDC’s incentive program for businesses wanting to locate at the Business and Industrial Park.

Equihua, who co-owns Ma’Coco with her brother, Javier, said entrepreneurs don’t have to wait until everything is “perfect” before taking the plunge on starting a new business. “You’re never as ready” as you want to be, Equihua said. “You’ll always find something you’re not happy with. We just jumped for it. We had quit our (previous) careers and decided to run with it.”

Panel of local business owners share their experience and advice.

Michalik, who owns the Crosshairs firearms center with her husband, Troy, said, “Our business started small.” She said their guiding philosophy from the start was to put “our money right back into the business,” adding, “we didn’t pay ourselves” at first. Michalik encouraged the audience to “make a culture and brand name” for their business by treating people well. “Make me feel special,” should be the entrepreneur’s guiding light regarding their interaction with customers and community members.

Other topics during the workshop included: Funding, Employer Guidelines, Business Growth and Networking with Resource Providers.