Austin is all about keeping things local, whether it is Longhorn pride, music and concert venues or simply shopping and eating local. Our state has weathered the recession better than any other state in the U.S., an optimistic turn for small business owners. According to a recent small business vitality survey from www.portfolio.com (January 2010), results showed Austin ranks the #1 place in the U.S to open a small business. The support of residents does not go unnoticed, and the City has developed a program to offer their support and wealth of resources to small business across the city.
Wanting to provide development opportunities and resources to small businesses so that they may become self-sustaining in a competitive business environment, the City of Austin has created the Small Business Development Program (SDBP). The program is divided into six components: Business Solutions Center (BSC), BizAid, Information and Referral, Special Events, BizOpen and www.ExploreLocalAustin.org.
In a one-stop-shop setting similar to that of a library, the Business Solutions Center offers use of state of the art computer equipment and high-speed internet access, as well as several online databases. The BSC also provides access to copiers, CD burners, fax machines, printers, a scanner, free notary services and a vast collection of written entrepreneurial materials that may help with determining the best avenue to establish and grow a business.
Another component, the BizAid Program, is customized business solutions to transition entrepreneurs from one growth phase to another. Part of the BizAid Program is business development. It consists of “Business Start Up Orientation” which is held every Tuesday. BizAid Business Orientation provides great resources and referrals to organizations and programs that support the development and growth of small businesses in Austin. As part of BizAid Business Development, an entrepreneur can receive one-on-one assistance for creating a business and/or marketing plan at no cost. A small business owner can also receive, at no cost, assistance in finding capital through personalized assistance with personal credit assessments, finding loan sources and filling out loan applications, as well as financial management assistance. A complete list of upcoming classes and events is provided on www.AustinSmallBiz.org.
Through the information and referral program, SBDP serves as a clearinghouse of information to direct business owners, or is able to refer them to the right resource. “SBDP is a tremendous conduit for Austin entrepreneurs to learn about local resources available as they start or expand their small businesses,” states SBDP Business Information Coordinator, Joy Miller. “Our goal is to help guide entrepreneurs to the right and best sources for small businesses.” SBDP also host special events throughout the year which include the annual Meet the Lender business loan fair, held in August. There, business owners can meet with dozens of area lenders in an informal setting as well as attend educational workshops.
Kenneth Dublin of The Learning Pad, LLC, cites the information and referral program as a turning point in the start-up process of his learning solutions company in North Austin. “The seminars that they have there are top notch. They ask questions that sometimes the new business owner or someone that is contemplating starting business doesn’t think about, such as ‘Are you prepared for the hours that go into starting your business?’” Specifically, he mentions the Meet the Lender program. “I was able to go in and meet various lending institutions for start-up companies. Through that I was able to do a bit of networking and was able to meet with business coaches and organizations that could help derive my business plan.”
Newest to the program is BizOpen and www.ExploreLocalAustin.org. BizOpen helps small business owners navigate the City’s development, zoning and permitting processes. Working along with this and serving as an online map, www.ExploreLocalAustin.org gives locations of small businesses in selected areas of Austin. The map contains embedded information on each business, giving the business a greater Internet presence, allowing for greater leverage in marketing efforts.
The City of Austin has shown their belief for local and small businesses alike, allowing both prospective and current owners to take advantage of their tremendous efforts to provide the support and resources necessary to succeed. For more information, go to www.AustinSmallBiz.org or call (512) 974-7800.