By Emily Banks Wooten
Dianne Amerine, a business advisor with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Angelina College, was the guest speaker during a recent learning lunch provided by the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce.
Amerine explained that the SBDC receives federal funding support through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and is a resource partner with the SBA. Under the umbrella of the Texas Gulf Coast Network, it is one of four regional SBDC networks in Texas.
Explaining what they do and why, Amerine said the SBDC provides assistance to entrepreneurs wanting to start or grow their business. “Our goal is to help you have a positive impact on the economy with business starts, business growth, jobs and financing. Our success is measured and demonstrated through surveys. Your response is always crucial.”
Amerine said the SBDC provides free, one-on-one, confidential business advice; a wide variety of practical, affordable training; access to industry reports; and expertise in wretail, web design, international trade, technology commercialization and QuickBooks.
“We help with all the phases. We can meet you where you are. We have a program director and two parttime business advisors. We have an online registration process. Our plans are customized to our individual clients,” she said.
“We’re here for the life of your business, from start-up to beyond. We can’t provide legal or tax advice, but we can refer you to a professional network directory. We advise and teach, but we do not to the work for you. We help you apply for a loan, but we do not make the loan decision.”
Amerine emphasized the importance of having a business plan. “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. What sets you apart? If everything’s equal, why choose you? You also have to have a vigorous marketing plan.
“The number one reason for failure in business is undercapitalization,” she said, in addition to failure to differentiate, failure to communicate, failure to plan, lack of discipline and broken-down leadership, among other things. “You plan on expenses being a maximum and revenues being a minimum.
“Turning small business into smart business is what we’re all about. We want to help drive people to your website. We will work with you,” she said.
Amerine also emphasized knowing who the competition is. “What business are you in? What does your business do for your customer? What is your why? Who is your customer?
“We do not make loans and we do not give grants,” she said, adding that they can help determine if you can qualify for a loan.
In closing, Amerine shared five sites that are helpful for writing a business plan: sba.gov template which is free; liveplan.com which is a monthly subscription for $15-$30; Grow Think which is $98; lawdepot.com which is free; and dreambuilder.org which is free.
She also shared several resourceful websites, including: entrepreneur.com, cnnmoney.com, fortunesmallbusiness.com, smallbiz.com, liveplan.com, sba.gov and irs.gov.