Budding entrepreneurs are usually brimming with enthusiasm over the new product or service they want to offer the world. They might envision a storefront teeming with the latest fashions, a food truck that offers unusual scrumptious dishes, or a cutting-edge website design service.
Whatever the case, the creative idea is just the beginning. It must be followed by brass-tack details such as taxes, insurance, and a strong business plan if the business is to succeed. This is where the Buffalo State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) comes in.
The nonprofit center housed in Cleveland Hall and funded by the Small Business Administration offers a plethora of resources for new and existing business owners throughout Western New York, including the “Survive and Thrive: Essentials for Starting Your Own Business” workshop.
Usually held on one Tuesday morning a month in the Burchfield Penney Art Center conference room, Survive and Thrive brings in experts who provide an overview of the less glamorous, but nonetheless crucial, aspects of starting a business.
During the May 25 workshop, for instance, David Roach, an attorney who specializes in small business, talked about the different kinds of businesses, i.e. proprietorship, partnership, limited liability corporation (LLC), and the benefits and risks associated with each. He was followed by Cindi Thomason, a senior business adviser with SBDC, who talked about the importance of creating a “reader-friendly” business plan.
“You need to be creating a narrative that is very thorough about what the business will be doing,” she said. “If the underwriter doesn’t understand the specifics, you aren’t likely to get a loan.”
Kevin Overdorf, of Overdorf Insurance, advised new entrepreneurs to have adequate insurance so as not to risk losing everything.
“It’s important when you’re looking for coverage to find an insurance agent who knows small business,” he said during his talk to the group.
To wrap up the workshop, Kathleen Richardson, outreach and constituent service specialist with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, shared the sobering statistic that 49 percent of businesses fail within the first five years.
“Not knowing what to do about taxes is one of the factors why they fail,” Richardson said.
She gave advice on what paperwork is needed for new employees, the importance of maintaining adequate records, and the license necessary to collect sales tax. She provided insight of what steps to follow if purchasing a business and the deadlines for tax filing periods.
The Survive and Thrive program started in 2012 with the goal of providing foundational information for starting a business while motivating participants to seek more knowledge and maybe become a SBDC client, said Susan McCartney, SBDC director.
“The workshop is designed to be comfortable and accessible on all levels from the topic introduced to the location,” McCartney said. “We try to bring in speakers who set the right tone. They cover many of the challenges of starting a business, while expressing enthusiasm for those who follow their entrepreneurial dreams.”
As Thomason said when listing the main reasons to write a business plan, “A plan puts you in control of your business.”
And this is true of all the groundwork needed to a new business—putting the owner in control and arming him or her with the knowledge to succeed.
The next Survive and Thrive workshop will be held on Tuesday, June 21, from 8:30 a.m. until noon in the Burchfield Penney Art Center conference room (second floor).
The workshop is free for Buffalo State faculty, staff, students, and alumni and U.S. military veterans, and $20 for all others. To learn more, contact the SBDC at (716) 878-4030.
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