When staff members from the Arkansas Small Business & Technology Development Center host a workshop on Thursday, July 12, they hope to help people with business ideas take a first step – or possibly a later step – in finding funding.
“It’s kind of like Lending 101,” said Lavonica Davis, business consultant for the ASBTDC at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
The event is slated for 10 a.m. to noon at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Services Center on 211 W. Third Ave. in Pine Bluff. Scheduled to attend are Anthony Armstrong, project consultant/loan mobilization manager at Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and Herb Lawrence, lender relations specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Representatives from Simmons Bank, Stone Bank and Relyance Bank are also scheduled to attend, as are representatives from two other organizations with resources for businesses: Financing Ozarks Rural Growth and Economy, based in Huntsville, and Communities Unlimited, based in Little Rock.
Davis said the center has hosted several events such as this one in Jefferson County in the past few months or so, focusing on the financing needed to start small businesses. She said she has heard people express interest in opening such businesses as daycare centers, cleaning services, restaurants and boutiques.
Stephanie Harton, center director of the Arkansas Small Business & Technology Development Center, said the center helps people at various stages in the business process – including those who own a business and want to help it grow in some way. She said she sometimes consults with people who own farms or logging businesses, for instance.
“They’ll come to us needing an equipment loan,” she said.
Harton said securing a loan initially, in order to start a business, can pose a formidable task. If someone has been unsuccessful in obtaining a loan, she said, staff members may “guide them in the right direction” and, using feedback from a loan officer, help them to understand why their application did not succeed.
She also noted options other than banks, including organizations sometimes referred to as “microlenders.”
“They may be more apt to give a loan,” Harton said, noting that microlenders often work with people who have been unsuccessful in seeking a loan from a bank. That lack of success, she said, might have stemmed from such things as a glitch in credit history or inexperience on the part of the person trying to start a business.
Microlenders, Harton noted, may be more likely to offer a loan – but she said they also may grant smaller loans and charge more interest than banks may.
Harton said, too, that people might come to the Arkansas Small Business & Technology Development Center for help with a wide range of tasks associated with starting a business. These tasks might include learning about the various licenses they need in order to get started, deciding whether they’ll need to use accountants and lawyers in their new businesses, and studying the demand for their businesses in their area. That third task may involve digging into some of the demographics, such as age, in the area.
Harton said a marketing plan is also key, especially in convincing a lender that the money is well invested.
“If you can’t market your business to get people in there, (lenders) know they’re not going to get their money back,” Harton said.
Davis mentioned the importance of knowing the zoning regulations, as well.
Harton noted some types of businesses that have opened in Jefferson County in the past year or so, such as such as stores and a cleaning service.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a steady flow of people, but since the Go Forward (Pine Bluff) initiative we’re getting more people to work with,” Harton said.
Davis said lunch would be served at Thursday’s event, and she said the Arkansas district office staff of the U.S. Small Business Administration “will discuss valuable SBA programs, products and services to start and grow a small business in Arkansas” from 1 to 3 p.m. on Thursday in the same location. Both events are free.
People with questions or who seek to register for the 10 a.m. event hosted by the Arkansas Small Business & Technology Development Center can go to http://asbtdc.org/training/monticello-events/ to register or call Davis at 870-460-1266.
People with questions or seeking to sign up for the 1 p.m. event with the Arkansas district office staff of the U.S. Small Business Administration can go to http://bit.ly/MeetSBAPineBluff or call 501-324-7379, Ext. 294.