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Small Business Workshops an informative day

By Terry Hagerty – Contributing writer/photographer

The Small Business Workshops & Luncheon hosted by the Bastrop Economic Development Corporation, the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce, and Woodforest National Bank was an enlightening half-day event for numerous area small business owners. It was held at the Bastrop Convention and Exhibit Center on May 1. 

Bill Thompson with the SBDC spoke about business planning. (Photo by Terry Hagerty)Guest speaker Bill Thompson, with the Small Business Development Center of Texas State University, started off the morning by talking about several key areas for both starting up and maintaining a business. He cautioned that about 80 percent of all businesses that start up fail within three years. He detailed a Business Model brochure that he said was “important to have out in front of you…on a regular basis.” Among several important items for a successful business, he cited “Understanding your customers;” How much capital is needed for starting a business; And who your “key partners” are. Regarding customers, he said, “Get out and talk to present and potential customers.” As an example of key partners, he said they should be “people who can create synergy with you,” and not just your current business accounts/customers. Thompson cited the Milan (Italy) fashion industry as an example of businesses which have strong relationships with one another, in that “they make referrals to each other.” He said when explaining your business and/or product(s) to people, “Don’t give the secret sauce away.” He said let people know “what your product will do, not ‘how’ it does it.” 

Carleton Smith with SCORE talked about marketing. (Photo by Terry Hagerty)

Small Business Mentor – Carleton Smith, a Small Business Mentor for SCORE, spoke next. The SCORE Association, supported by SBA, is a nonprofit association of thousands of volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. and its territories. Smith combined humor with making his points effectively, and grabbed the audience’s attention from the start. He started out by asking them, “How many of you have been on a vacation?” He waited a few moments while many hands were raised. “Before you left, did you have any idea where you would go? How you would get there? And the amount of money you would spend?” He paused a few moments to let those basic questions any vacationer would likely know, sink in. Then he said, “If you can do a vacation plan, I’m pretty sure you can do a business plan.” He said too many people start businesses without having the answers to some very basic questions mapped out. Smith listed the “4 P’s of Marketing”: Product, Place, Price and Promotion. Product entails a clear idea of “exactly what are you selling.” Place encompasses, “How and where you will deliver it to the customer,” while Price is “At what price will you sell it?” And for Promotion, “How will you get customers to buy it?” 

A panel discussion focused on accessing capital. (Photo by Terry Hagerty)Obtaining Loans – Also providing valuable information on obtaining business loans, as well as other pertinent information, was a keynote panel titled, “Small Business Access to Capital.” The five panel members included: Julia Dunn, PeopleFund Chief Financial Officer; Rene Flores, Woodforest National Bank/Bastrop Bank Manager; Michael Moctezuma, BiGAUSTIN Lending Manager; Miguel De La Riva, LiftFund Business Development Officer; and Rosa Rios Valdez, CEO of Business & Community Lenders of Texas. Valdez said while a good credit score is important for a business, other factors are also crucial, such as a business’ net worth, indications of “whether you manage your business well,” and having business financial records that are “no older than 90 days” available for loan officers, in order to have a current indication of a business’ performance.Attendees at the Small Business workshops on May 1. (Photo by Terry Hagerty)

Audience ‘On Board’ – Audience member Anne Lehnick said she found the workshop quite valuable. Lehnick said she had lost her administrative job with the State of Texas and was seeking a new career. “I’m here to learn the basics of starting a business, we don’t even know the first step,” Lehnick said of the efforts of she and her husband to start a resume writing business. She said she was particularly impressed, and personally encouraged by Carleton Smith, after he had introduced himself to Lehnick, chatted briefly with her moments before taking the podium, and offered help by leaving his business card. She was even more impressed after Smith had finished his talk. “I learned the importance of having a solid marketing plan, then taking action,” Lehnick said. He’s pretty funny, too!” Jana Hellbusch said, “What I learned is to keep updating my marketing plan.” She said she also took away that “social media is very important in today’s marketplace.” Hellbusch, with All City Real Estate, said she already stays pretty active with social media by using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, having her own website, and sending a newsletter twice per year to clients.