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NJ SBDC Serves Military Service Members and Spouses with “Boots to Business”

NJ SBDC "Boots to Business"The New Jersey SBDC at the Rutgers School of Business in Camden, New Jersey, has been conducting the “Boots to Business” Entrepreneurial Program at the Fort Dix/McGuire Air Force Base in Lakehurst, New Jersey for the past two years. Partnering with the Small Business Administration Office of Veterans Business Development, Americas SBDC and the New Jersey SBDC, the Rutgers Camden SBDC has lectured hundreds of returning soldiers seeking to start their own businesses.

“Boots to Business” enables military service members and their spouses to explore careers in business ownership and self-employment, by showing them how to apply their military skills to start and grow a business. It helps them evaluate the feasibility of their business concepts and connects them to SBDCs and other SBA resource partners.

Robert Palumbo, Regional Director of the Rutgers Camden SBDC, and his staff find the opportunity to help returning soldiers fulfill their dreams of owning their own businesses to be an honor and a privilege. “It has been an honor to give back to our military. The classes have been dynamic and engaging. The skills the students learn will be transferable as they embark on their ventures,” says Guy Salisch, SBDC consultant at the Rutgers Camden SBDC.

“Boots to Business” is offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and SBDCs across the nation as a training track within the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP). The program is available on more than 165 U.S. military installations worldwide. More than 25,000 military service members and spouses have been trained since the program started in July, 2012.

For more information on the program and where it is offered, click here.

SBDC Business Advising Saves Aerospace Jobs

Success Story: Washington State

By Hope Belli Tinney, Washington SBDC

SonicoWhen WWII-era buildings at the Port of Moses Lake, Washington needed work in 2013, Sonico, the aircraft parts repair and maintenance business leasing those buildings, was told it would have to depart.

The simplest solution was to move to the I-5 interstate corridor near SeaTac – for close access to the aerospace customer base and a variety of lease options. But Sonico didn’t want to withdraw – or remove 45 good-paying jobs – from the town that had been its home for more than 30 years.

The problem, said company president W.B. “Bill” Perdue, was there was nowhere in Moses Lake to relocate. New construction had been on the drawing board for years, he said, but he’d been stymied in his efforts to find financing for a state-of-the-art Federal Aviation Administration-certified facility.

It took more than three years to work through that problem and others, but Sonico finally began construction of their new 28,000-square-foot building this summer, thanks in part to business advising from the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC).  (more…)

Building a Business in Construction

Success Story: Missouri (A-Plus Contractors LLC)

Sanders at a job siteIt’s well after 5 p.m., but Will Sanders, owner and co-founder of A-Plus Contractors in Saint Charles, Missouri, a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) specializing in dump truck work and heavy equipment hauling, excavation and power washing throughout the St. Louis area, is excited. But also a little tired.

“I am just a hard-working, ordinary guy,” he says of himself. “I am boots on the ground, boots in the office all day.”

Those boots are getting a lot of wear at Lambert Airport tearing out old concrete, hauling dirt and old concrete, laying new concrete and even planting trees as a subcontractor. And they’ll get even more on projects soon underway around Maline Creek, a small tributary of the Mississippi River on the northern edge of the City of St. Louis that’s suffered from severe erosion, and on the seven decades old, deteriorated Route 47 Missouri River Bridge, among other projects.

Sanders has almost a quarter century of industry experience, and he established the business in 2009. But the business didn’t really take off until 2014, when Sanders purchased his first dump truck.

That number has swelled to seven in just a year. He jokes he spends his lunch hour shopping for trucks. Sanders expects company revenues to be about $500,000 this year, significantly up from 2014.  (more…)

Helping Small Businesses Make the Best Financing Choices

By the Opportunity Finance Network

come-in-we-are-openSmall business owners pour their hearts and most of their resources into starting, growing and sustaining their businesses. Access to responsible capital is critical to grow and expand a business, which in turn is critical for financial security and creating jobs in the community.

Getting a small business loan has often been particularly hard for women and minority business owners. Women-owned businesses only get 4.4 percent of the dollar amount of all conventional small business loans. More than a third of minority business owners are worried they will not access the capital they need to maintain business operations. Furthermore, minority entrepreneurs are disproportionately denied credit when they apply for it, regardless of credit scores, income, or profits. The financial crisis that shook the entire national economy was damaging for small businesses in general, but especially small businesses owned by people of color, as large banks cut back on lending to small businesses.

In the wake of the recession, a plethora of online lenders have been promising small business owners “quick and easy” cash, without disclosing the hidden fees, high interest rates, and prepayment penalties. These tactics are harmful at the least, and can even drive some to go out of business. According to a recent survey by seven regional Federal Reserve banks, 20 percent of small businesses applying for financing in the past year went to an online lender. Though 75 percent of these businesses received at least some financing from these online lenders, only 15 percent reported being satisfied with their loans. This rise in unregulated, online alternative lenders provides an unprecedented but confusing variety of financing options, many of them designed more to help a lender’s bottom line than to help a small business succeed.  (more…)

How to Create Customer Relationships that Count

By Karen Peacock
group-of-customersSVP and Small Business Segment Leader at Intuit

Connecting with customers is a crucial part of success for any small business—but simply making a connection isn’t enough. You have to make sure you make the right connection, and then use it to drive innovation that keeps your customers coming back.

Small business owners often experience their biggest ah-ha moments during one-on-one interactions with their customers. Spending time with customers and prospects, learning what matters to them, and then testing your hypotheses can create a continuous feedback circle that both delights customers and powers your business forward.

5 Ways to Connect with Customers

You can make those customer connections and gain insights in a variety of ways. Here are a few of my favorites—from making one-on-one interactions really work to ways that you can use tech tools and data to help you keep your business thriving and innovating.

Hands-On Customer Testing

Don’t just ask customers what they like about your product or service; put something in front of them and watch what they do.  (more…)