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Big advice for your growing small business

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Besides inadequate access to capital, perhaps the single most important obstacle to small business success is the lack of technical and management assistance, and access to timely and accurate information, training, counseling and business education.

That’s why the Small Business Development Center program is one of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s bedrock offerings. If you are considering starting your own business or are encountering problems with an existing business, the SBDC program can help you navigate the road to success by guiding you through the critical steps to business success.

The SBDC program provides counseling and training to those who want to start a small business and to existing small business owners. The SBDC program is a cooperative effort of the private sector, the educational community, and federal, state and local governments. It enhances economic development by providing small businesses with management and technical assistance.

Located primarily at colleges and universities across the country, the program boasts a network of more than 1,100 small business development centers, at least one network in every state. SBDC service centers are available to provide you with insightful information and valuable advice on how to start or grow your small business.

SBDCs provide services that include business counseling and training, such as assistance with financing, marketing, organization, engineering and technical problems, and feasibility studies. Special programs and economic development activities include international trade assistance, technical assistance, procurement assistance, venture capital formation and rural development. Counselors help entrepreneurs with loan applications, business plans and common, everyday business management problems, such as establishing a bookkeeping system, hiring employees or planning for sales via the Internet.

SBDC service centers are located at colleges, universities, community colleges, vocational schools, chambers of commerce and economic development corporations. They also provide online counseling and use “circuit riders” who visit individual businesses and hold seminars and training sessions at remote locations.

Each SBDC develops its services in cooperation with the local SBA District Office to bring together other available resources. The SBDC Program is designed to deliver up-to-date counseling, training and technical assistance in all aspects of small business management. SBDC assistance is tailored to each local community and to the individual needs of clients.

Each SBDC has a director, staff members, volunteers and part-time personnel. Qualified individuals who donate their services are recruited from professional and trade associations, the legal and banking community, academia, chambers of commerce and SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business. In addition, SBDCs also use paid consultants, consulting engineers and testing laboratories from the private sector to help clients who need specialized expertise.

Counseling and training assistance from an SBDC is available to anyone interested in starting a small business for the first time, or improving or expanding an existing small business. The SBDCs make special efforts to reach minority members of socially and economically disadvantaged groups, veterans, women and the disabled. Assistance is also provided to small businesses applying for Small Business Innovation and Research grants from federal agencies.

SBDC sites are located throughout the country. A list of SBDCs in San Diego and Imperial counties is available at www.sba.gov/ca.

Small Business Success

The Lavender Fields started as a dream in June 1998 when owners Ellen Sullivan and Paul Bernhardy moved to a nine-acre farm in the foothills of the Palomar Mountains in northern San Diego County. Sullivan planted her first three lavender fields in May 2000. Her farm now includes a 600-square-foot greenhouse used as a nursery for the propagation and nurturing of thousands of baby lavenders, and a small workshop used to manufacture products. The Lavender Fields has more than 10,000 plants in dozens of varieties of French and English lavender.

The harvested lavender is cut, dried, the buds are stripped and then it is distilled for oil production. The oil and floral water (hydrosol) are used to produce body mists, crèmes and lotions. The lavender is also used to produce lavender baskets, wreaths, sachets and various other delightful lavender products.

When Sullivan wanted to expand her business she sought assistance through the North San Diego County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and connected with Mark Oakes, an SBDC consultant. Oakes helped her with permits, her Web site, marketing plans and expansion efforts. He also spent time consulting with her on QuickBooks and accounting challenges. He reviewed accounts payable transactions and helped her to correct entry and category errors. With the help of Oakes at the SBDC, Sullivan’s plans to expand further will come about in a manner that will benefit the company. Sullivan will expand by planting more acreage in lavender for oil production and testing gardens. Additional information on The Lavender Fields is available at www.thelavenderfields.com.

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1 UserComments
Roni Wilson 6:02am February 6, 2010

To Ellen & Paul I am thinking of starting to grow lavender here in Colorado. We live in Cedaredge, 45 miles southwest of Grand Junction. Elevation: 6500-6700 ft. I would like to know how did you start? From seeds or potted plants. We have 50 acres, but we are thinking of allocating 1/4 acre or smaller to start out. How much should I spend for plants to start out. Thanks Roni