'Entrepreneur survival school,' other resources help Utahns grow their small businesses
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Dr. Donna Milavetz is the founder and CEO of OnSite Care, a company that operates workplace medical clinics.
Since 2007, Milavetz's business has provided “primary care at work” for employers in Utah and Arizona. Today, she oversees 40 employees at 13 clinics that generated about $2.5 million in revenues in 2013.
Despite the success of her growing enterprise that she started with no previous entrepreneurial experience, she said, “You really do need some business skills to run a successful business.”
That's what brought her to a table with other entrepreneurs and small-business managers in an upper-floor meeting room of the 222 Main Street building in downtown Salt Lake City.
She was a “student” at a professional workshop series called 10,000 Small Businesses, sponsored by global investment bank Goldman Sachs in partnership locally with Salt Lake Community College. The program offers small-business owners along the Wasatch Front access to a practical business and management education.
Milavetz said she was looking to develop tools that would help her manage and navigate growth for her company over the long haul, and that was the reason she chose to apply to 10,000 Small Businesses.
“We were struggling as a company with some of those basic business principles,” she said. “The program gave me the skill set that I needed to move the company forward into a sustainable business model long term.”
Milavetz, who also has a master's degree in public administration, said that without the program, she believes her company “would still be floundering.”
Launched nationally in 2009 through support from Goldman Sachs and the Goldman Sachs Foundation, the program helps business owners selected to participate in the program by offering scholarships to cover tuition and materials. The first Salt Lake City group began in January 2013.
Participants are required to attend a mandatory orientation as well as 11 pre-scheduled learning sessions. Each session has approximately 30 participants.
They must also commit an additional 6 hours to 8 hours per week to out-of-class activities to work on their business, including completing assignments and attending networking events and business support clinics. Each participant also develops a tailored plan for growth prior to graduation.
“Based on our experience so far, (participants) get business planning, leadership and ownership tools as well as an educational framework to think about how to operate their business more efficiently and smarter,” said Bruce Larson, managing director and chief administrative officer for Goldman Sachs in Salt Lake City. To date, the program has impacted 1,700 small businesses nationwide, including about 60 companies in Utah.
Nationally, the criteria for participation are at least two years in business and at least $150,000 in annual revenue. The goal of the program is to help established small businesses progress to the “next level,” said Karen Gunn, associate provost and executive director of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Salt Lake Community College.
Some of the graduates call the program “a mini MBA without all the stuff you don’t need,” she said. “Others call it 'entrepreneur survival school.' ”
She said local partners also include the Salt Lake Hispanic Chamber, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and other business-oriented organizations.
“It’s a really great infrastructural ecosystem of partners working together to advance small business in Utah,” Gunn said.
Meanwhile, for those who would like to make their entrepreneurial dream a reality, there are other resources.
In 2006, Zions Bank launched the Business Resource Center as a resource to provide free services to prospective entrepreneurs wanting to start a business. Since then, the center has aided more than 5,000 individuals with tools to help them create and launch new businesses or expand existing companies, explained director Beth Holbrook.
Of the clients served over seven years, the majority were startups while others were existing companies in need of business plan development, she said.
The center offers a publications library, business plan templates, computer workstations and staff to assist clients in their business endeavors, all at no cost. Beyond the brick-and-mortar location, the online center, utahsmallbusiness.com, offers articles, worksheets and tips for those interested in starting a business.
Holbrook said budding entrepreneurs, including those with home-based businesses, can get started with just a few steps:
• Have passion for your idea and make sure it will be competitive in your market.
• Identify and build clients even before you launch.
• Write a great business plan.
• Assemble a team of key advisors, including an accountant and lawyer.
• Explore funding from a variety of sources, including venture funding and Small Business Administration loans.
The center partners with organizations such as the Governor's Office of Economic Development, the U.S. Small Business Administration, Salt Lake Community College and the Greater Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce to offer seminars, workshops and business-networking opportunities, Holbrook said.
Capital provided through Zions Bank’s Small Business Administration loans in 2013 helped Utah businesses grow, enabling companies to hire 858 new employees and retain 1,732 positions, according to administration data.
“We know that people who are chasing their dreams of owning their own businesses need resources and support to succeed,” she said.
The three C's
For those in need of funding to help launch their idea or support their already existing venture, the U.S. SBA, online at sba.gov, has resources available, said regional administrator Matt Varilek.
“We have the three C’s, which are capital, counseling and contracting,” Varilek said. The agency can provide loan guarantees on small-business loans from local lending institutions to aid small enterprises that “are on the bubble” and want to obtain the necessary monies to fund their businesses. Many SBA loans are low-fee or no-fee, he added.
In Utah alone, the SBA issued nearly $400 million in guarantees last year, said district director Stan Nakano.
Confidential counseling from current entrepreneurs is available to prospective business owners, and there is an agency goal for at least 23 percent of goods and services to be purchased through small-business contracts, Varilek said.
“We have programs and experts who can guide small businesses through what can sometimes be a mysterious world of government contracting,” he said.
The agency has a commitment to provide assistance to startup and existing business owners who strive to build their business and move it forward, Nakano said.
"We are always trying to increase the ability of small businesses to gain access to capital," he said.
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