Clayton State, Henry Chamber help entrepreneurs
Classes start next week in Clayton

By Joel Hall


Contrary to the movie, "Field of Dreams," starting a business doesn't necessarily mean people will come. In the wake of economic uncertainty, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Clayton State University and the Henry County Chamber of Commerce are teaming up to give budding, local entrepreneurs a better chance at success.

Starting this Thursday, the SBDC will host a four-part Entrepreneur Development Series (EDS) at the Clayton State University School of Business. The classes will take place over the course of two weeks, on July 17, 18, 24, and 25, from 9 a.m., to noon.

The EDS is a lean version of the Entrepreneur Success Series (ESS), which is offered by the SDBC on a regular basis. A first-time offering, the EDS will address the core of what it takes to start a successful business, said Kyle Hensel, area director of the SBDC at Clayton State.

"A lot of people think that if you open the doors to your business, the customers are going to come in, and that is not always the case," said Hensel. "One of the main goals of the program is developing a business plan because your business plan is the road map. It says who your customers are and how you are going to reach them."

The four lessons offered in the course are:

· "Starting a Businesses," in which people will learn the top reasons new businesses fail, how to do market research, and the traits of successful interviews;

· "Writing an Effective Business Plan," where people will learn how to present financial projections that will convince loan guarantors and attract investors;

· "Marketing Your Small Business," which shows people how to maximize their marketing dollars and reach the most people for the least amount of money;

· "Financing the Business," a step-by-step guide to financing a start-up business and preparing a winning package for financial assistance.

The cost of each class separately is $69, while the entire course is offered at the reduced rate of $229.

Donna Kelsick, business consultant with the SBDC, said that first-time entrepreneurs feel "overwhelmed" by the process of starting a business. "We can hold their hand and walk them through it," said Kelsick.

As the program receives government funding from the Small Business Administration, the SBDC is able to offer consultation services to people who take the class throughout the different stages of developing their business, at no charge to the client.

"I'm always surprised by how many people don't know about our services," said Kelsick. "We're here to assist them in any stage of the business." She said the SBDC doesn't do a lot of advertising, "so these classes serve as the exposure to get our name out there."

Those who are not able to attend the EDS will be able to attend ESS classes at the Henry County Chamber of Commerce -- located at 1709 Highway 20 West in McDonough -- starting July 30. The ESS course is seven classes spread out over the course of seven Wednesdays, and delves deeper into the legal and tax issues of starting a business, Kelsick said.

The sessions include: "Starting a Business" (July 30); "Marketing Your Small Business (Aug. 6); "Setting Up Records" (Aug. 30); "Small Business Legal Issues" (Aug. 20); Tax Tips for the Small Business (Aug. 27); "Writing an Effective Business Plan" (Sept. 3); and "Financing the Business" (Sept. 10).

Classes may be taken separately at a cost of $69 per session and together for the price of $349. A certificate of completion is awarded after attending all seven classes.

Taylor Rice, chairman of the Henry County Small Business Council, said anyone who completes the course will be "ready to open the doors to their business."

"With the recent downturn of the economy, there are a lot of present and potential businesses that need a little bit of help," said Rice. "If you take this from beginning to end, you will encounter every step that you need to open a business.

"The task at hand is going to be a seemingly daunting task, but with the right resources and the right help, it's a manageable task you can undertake."

Individuals can sign up for the classes online at www.business.clayton.edu/sbdc, or to find out more about the Small Business Development Center, call (678) 466-5100.