theVoice • rockfordchamber.com
february 2019 | 15
R O C K F O R D
C H A M B E R
C O M M E R C E
Small Business Enterprise An invaluable resource for would-be entrepreneurs
SBDC: Your coach through starting a business
Another wonderful and extremely meaningful resource and coach in starting a new business is our Rockford Public Library. The SBDC and the library have partnered to offer a series of live and digital courses to teach you how to turn your great idea into a thriving, profitable business.
Just to be perfectly clear, it is the role of the Small Business Development Center to provide coaching and guidance, even leadership, as your business plan, marketing plan and marketing research progresses and evolves, and as you establish your business concept and the possibility of providing a lender with a strong understanding about your hopes and dreams for your enterprise, including financial projections. We accommodate and serve by means of freely giving feedback, input and advice. You must write the plan; it is yours and it needs to be written in your “voice.” You and only you should write the plan. Let’s talk about one of the things I’ve heard since becoming the director of the SBDC. A common misunderstanding is our role through the world of grants. The state of Illinois and the U.S. federal government are not flush with cash to the extent that they are giving money to the populace for whimsical reasons. Grants are available, yes, and they are part of the landscape to the point that we need to explore that option. We will always assist any individual pursuit as appropriately as we can and for as many individuals as we are capable of in terms of time and efficiencies. Please note: We are not the determinant of those funds, and we do not file or complete the large amounts of paperwork (forms and data-driven documents) for that funding. We do not have a “magic telephone number”
Founder Carnegie’s mission: Helping those who help themselves
In 1901, the City of Rockford began construction on its public library building with a generous gift from wealthy steel baron and philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie, a selfeducated, Scottish immigrant, argued in an 1889 article he wrote for the North American Review that in order to achieve lasting good and the improvement of mankind, the wealthy should use their surplus riches to improve public facilities that would enable the deserving poor to help themselves. Carnegie’s ideals continue to guide the Rockford Public Library (RPL) as an organization in its mission to educate, inform, entertain and culturally enrich the people of our community. In developing our strategic plan over the last year, we became collectively excited about efforts we would take to provide everyone in Rockford with tools to improve their employability, advance their ideas or explore entrepreneurship.
Free Digital Classes for All Keeping true to Carnegie’s desire to help all those with the will to help themselves, RPL set out to assemble, refine and provide access to valuable tools that would serve would-be entrepreneurs. We wanted to serve as the starting point for anyone to develop a profitable business, regardless of their previous experience or education. We reached out to the SBDC to determine where we might best fit in a citizen’s process of creating a profitable business. Discussions revealed that many hopeful business owners were contacting the SBDC without having taken preliminary steps to define their business ideas. This need for SBDC clients to receive preliminary education and have a basic understanding of how to turn their great idea into a thriving and profitable business made way for a natural partnership with the RPL. RPL offers hundreds of free digital classes, many of which are accredited, that provide people with an
understanding Bridget Finn Rockford Public of basic business Library acumen. Patrons who log onto our Universal Class database through our website www. rockfordpubliclibrary.org can choose to follow along with lectures and assignments on their own or interact with a live instructor, gaining feedback on assignments, and certification upon completion of each course. The Universal Class database allows RPL cardholders to study Business Management, Writing, Analysis, Branding, and much more from anywhere the Internet can be accessed. Patrons can learn at times convenient for them and at whatever pace they prefer.
Live Classes for Starting a Business To supplement the offerings of the Universal Class database, Rockford Public Library is now offering a collection of live classes being taught by SBDC consultants at various library branches. Live class offerings include Executive Summary Basics, How to Make a Business Plan, Marketing Plan Basics and How to Use Quickbooks for Small Business. New live classes are consistently being created with the most successful courses being repeated on a monthly basis. Like our digital offerings, there is no cost to attend these live business classes. RPL patrons greatly appreciate the value of learning directly from SBDC consultants, and we are confident that these consistent efforts will serve to funnel qualified start-up opportunities to the SBDC, ultimately resulting in more profitable businesses in Rockford. We’re immensely proud to partner with Rockford’s SBDC to provide those who wish to help themselves with access to tools that will help them realize their dreams of business ownership. For more information on the partnership and current live classes as well as our Universal Class course offerings, visit www. rockfordpubliclibrary.org/business-buildingbasics. Bridget Finn is director of marketing and communications at the Rockford Public Library.
You roll up your sleeves to do the hard work that provides Bo Boger all our SBDC SBDC clients with information about a monetary means available for different types of people that might qualify for funding. I wish we did. However, we do not. We also wish you well. From a different perspective, by the time someone enters our offices, the grant possibility should have been examined to its fullest extent. Ask the “hows” and “whys,” on the Internet; through sites that focus their deliberation and scrutiny near and around available funding for specific cases of people who “deserve” these resources because of life’s extenuating circumstances. Please, do not put the burden on the SBDC to determine your eligibility for those “free money”-type occurrences and affairs. We decide nothing. It is our role to provide coaching and guidance. Bo Boger is director at the Illinois SBDC at the Rockford Chamber of Commerce. ABOUT THE SBDC The Illinois SBDC at the Rockford Chamber of Commerce oﬀers services free of charge to aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Rockford area, both chamber members and non-members. As a partnership between the Rockford Chamber and the Illinois DCEO, it operates out of NIU EIGERlab, NIURockford, 8500 E. State St., and maintains an oﬃce at the chamber’s downtown location. For questions, call 815-987-8100.