Starting a successful small business doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen a lot quicker with some help.
Defiance County has several programs and organizations that are eager to help individuals with dreams of owning their own small business.
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and account for most of our employers,” praised Erika Willitzer, executive director of the Defiance County Economic Development Office. “They are critical for many reasons, including job creation, innovation, but their biggest impact is on our local communities. Each day, they are building personal connections and whether the business owners realize it or not; they are the spokespeople of our community.”
Several organizations can help entrepreneurs make their vision of a small business a reality.
Defiance County itself has the Northwestern Ohio Community Action Commissioner’s (NOCAC) Financial Opportunities Center.
“We have the capacity if someone is starting a business,” said Jamie Huber, community services director for (NOCAC). “Our coaches are trained to help people navigate that process. One of our coaches researches and connects people to the right resources; that’s the biggest part of our job – connecting people to resources.”
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) is one resource that can guide prospective business owners.
Lisa Becher, consultant at the SBDC, said the two most important things someone who wants to start their own business should have is a business plan to guide them financially and operationally and the registration to do business in the state.
“The SBDC can provide resources to help you get started,” Becher stated, adding that individuals may visit northweststate.edu/small-business-development-center for more information. “A simple business plan starts out with a statement of purpose and company description, then moves into a marketing plan, operational plan and financial plan.”
Becher pointed out that the SBDC has helped more than 500 businesses "both small and medium'' establish themselves as businesses and startups. On average, the center assists 100 people annually.
Becher commented that most of the SBDC’s business clients are referrals from lenders, economic development offices and others like NOCAC.
Funding may be an issue for some who want to start a small business. There is help there as well.
“At Defiance County Economic Development, we strive to take an all above approach,” Willitzer commented. “While we do assist outside companies looking to locate in our county, we also believe it is equally important to make sure our small businesses are supported. That’s one of the main reasons we are now offering the Homegrown Small Business Grant, which is sponsored by Premier Bank. These grants are $500 awards, and we will be giving out $10,000.”
Applications for the grant are available at www.DefianceCountyED.com.
Defiance County banking institutions also are eager to help prospective and current small business owners but it is important that they have items like business plans and financial projections.
“(Financial) projections are really important to guide where you should be or want to be,” Becher explained. “You critically think about your revenue, cost of sales, expenses and net income. If you are seeking financial assistance, it is important that you have a positive net income projection before asking for a loan.”
She stressed that once a small business is up and running, it is still vital to update projections and business plans.
“It is always important to revise a plan and constantly make changes to it,” she urged.
“Environmental changes are happening every day and you want to react appropriately to these changes. Those include competitors, economy, regulations, social trends and technologies. Per these factors, there is no ideal time (to revise plans) but most would probably say annually so you can assess the impact on your financials as well.”
Marketing is key as “no business can succeed without marketing as that is one of the top reasons businesses fail,” stated Becher, who has an MBA specializing in marketing. “Marketing drives sales.”
It’s also vital for small business owners to keep up-to-date on issues that may impact their shops. The SBDC offers many workshops, webinars and programs of various interests to help there too.
“Education is your best answer to success,” Becher stressed. “Be smart about what you are getting into and always ask questions. Life is always seeking opportunity and learning from mistakes. In business, you can’t always recover from mistakes, so take classes to better yourself and read to learn about how others have handled misfortune.”
Becher knows how it is being a small business owner as she is one herself.
“I was sought for this role (at the SBDC) because everything I am telling people to do I have done myself from writing a business plan, working with lenders, completing projections, researching the market and registering a business with the state of Ohio, choosing the correct legal structure that worked for me, starting a business and currently operating a successful business (and expanding it several times),” she revealed.
While owning a small business is work, it is rewarding in several ways including creating strong connections within their community.
Willitzer praised small businesses and what they do for the community.
“Close to 70 cents of every dollar spent at small businesses stays in our local community,” she acknowledged. “That stat alone should be an eye opener of how important small business owners are to our local economy.”