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Brunswick Community College hosted its first small business summit Nov. 21 to promote the opportunities available for potential business owners.
The college held a series of brief talks from some of the instructors of their free seminars and workshops in the Small Business Center, and others from the extended community.
“We all know small businesses are the backbone of our community,” BCC President Dr. Susanne Adams said.
She added that 98 percent of Brunswick County employers are considered small businesses – businesses with less than 10 employees.
Adams said the BCC Small Business Center, working with the Brunswick County Economic Development office and SCORE – a group of retired businesspeople who volunteer to help small business get established, can help current businesses increase sales and help startups increase opportunities to find capital and financing.
The BCC Small Business Center puts out a brochure yearly, the Brunswick County Small Business Resource Guide, she added.
“It includes everything a small business owner will need to have to get started,” Adams said.
Small Business Center Director Kim Wiggs Gamlin, who introduced the speakers, said the small business center is at the main BCC campus every Wednesday and at BCC’s Leland campus the rest of the week.
Dr. Rick Essman, a vice president with Revive Financial provided some tips for financing in order to be a small business owner.
“You have to cultivate an attitude of what it is to be a business owner. You do not just get an idea and the world comes to your door,” Essman said.
Essman said prior to working in financial services, he worked as a chiropractor and owned other small businesses.
“When I was in business, my model was to avoid business loans. I felt a business loan was equal to being shanghaied by criminals. I felt you were giving up too much,” Essman said.
But he wishes he knew then what he knows now, that access to capitol is important to any businesses’ long-term success.
Essman said the top three needs of a small business owner are a good (business) credit score, the ability to demonstrate they have collateral and cash flow, and good personal credit.
He said the third item is undervalued by too many business owners who use personal credit to keep a business going.
“The secret to making sure you stay open or get the doors open is to make sure you have good personal credit,” Essman said.
When looking for financing, personal credit history is used to judge if you can pay back a business loan, he said.
He encouraged small businesses owners to seek out revolving (business) credit in order to ensure there is always cash flow to cover costs.
He added that it is important that once business revenues are used to pay back creditors, business owners have to remember to pay themselves, despite thinking they must just pump any money made back into the business.
Art Kareff of SCORE, a retired vice president with the Mars Corporation, spoke about the importance of preparing a cash flow chart.
“Do not consider going into business if you do not understand cash flow, 99 percent of people don’t,” Kareff said.
Kareff said cash flow is the most important issue because “cash is king.”
“Even a profitable company can die if cash goes out faster than cash comes in,” Kareff said.
A successful business owner knows how to time when cash is coming in and going out.
Kareff said SCORE recommends business owners use a financial model, which they have available at their website, because a financial model provides an established plan.
He said planning out cash flow is the first step he takes with a potential business owner, even before creating a business plan, which is step two.
He said the business plan tells you how you are going to do business – who are you, what do you do, how do you do it, what you expect from the business.
Representatives from SCORE are on the BCC campus every Wednesday, Kareff added.
Jim Roberts of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, spoke about the business creator he was hired to start.
The CIE opened an 11,000 square foot office at 803 South College St. in Wilmington in September to draw in entrepreneurs and the people who can offer them the funding sources they need to get started.
Roberts has worked with entrepreneurs throughout North Carolina and is attempting to draw them away from the Raleigh/Durham Triangle to the coast.
“Wilmington is the eighth largest city in North Carolina, but it is 24th in innovation. We are trying to earn the respect of local investors,” Roberts said.
Roberts said running an entrepreneur support organization is tricky because the supporters, “must meet the energy level and work pace of the entrepreneurs without appearing to be a bureaucracy.”
Roberts said the CIE holds events to bring in people with business ideas to connect them with supporters and offers them space in the building to work on bringing the business idea to fruition.
Sheridan Vernon, owner of a tax preparation business in Shallotte, said he picked up some ideas from attending the small business summit.
“When I attend seminars I always pick up something,” Vernon said.
He said it was the first time he heard of UNC-W’s program for entrepreneurs, he didn’t know SCORE was available to meet with business owners at BCC and he is interested in looking at their website for cash flow templates.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.