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Small-business center prepares prospective owners

Photo by Jim Massara
Cedric Wright, Michael Anderson and Angela White at a class on how to start a business, given Wednesday at Clayton State East.

Photo by Jim Massara Cedric Wright, Michael Anderson and Angela White at a class on how to start a business, given Wednesday at Clayton State East.

You might call it Entrepreneurship 101. Or How to Avoid the Worst Knocks from the School of Hard Knocks.

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Photo by Jim Massara Instructor Heather Chaney makes a point to prospective small-business owners Wednesday night at Clayton State East in Morrow.

Whatever you call it, Clayton State University’s class on how to start a small business, conducted by its Small Business Development Center, attracts about a dozen students every month with dreams of being their own bosses.

It’s an attractive idea, but it’s not easy. Program coordinator Heather Chaney, who taught the May class Wednesday night at Clayton State East in Morrow, learned the hard way by opening and then closing a franchise restaurant herself in just a few years.

“I’d like to help people not make the same mistakes I did,” Chaney said during a class break. “I wish I’d had enough sense to come to one of these classes, but hindsight is 20-20.”

The class covers basics like market research, legal issues, planning strategies and raising money. Students who understand the obstacles and still want to proceed then consult with the center for help moving forward.

Some students have second thoughts. Scaring them him off is “not my intention,” Chaney said, “but it is my intention for you to think about it in depth.”

Those who stay are clear about what to expect.

“I love it,” said Cedric Wright of Wednesday’s class. Wright works in Jonesboro and plans to open a car-repair shop. Although he had plenty of experience selling parts to other shops, he said was “pleasantly surprised” that he was learning as much as he did.

Angela White of Tyrone, who wants to design, manufacture and sell women’s apparel to retail outlets and had 20 years experience in her field, also said she found the class useful — but that she would be looking for a partner now that she had learned a little about what she faced.

By contrast, Michael Anderson of Locust Grove wanted to move from fixing airplanes to fixing fried chicken in his own restaurant. He had prepared even before attending the class with “lots of reading and research,” but said that he, too, found the class helpful. Buoyed by a “supportive wife” and a passion, he said he hopes to succeed. “I can’t get my mind off it,” Anderson said. “My mind and heart were ready for it.”

Classes are $69 per student with discounts available to Clayton State students and staff. Classes taught by Clayton State’s Small Business Development Center — a part of Georgia’s SBDC Network — are given in Clayton, Fayette, Henry and Spalding counties on a rotating basis, but students don’t have to live in the county where the class will be taught to attend.

For more information, visit http://business.clayton.edu/SBDC/ or call (678) 466-5100.