Written by Arkansas Real Estate
This week we were able to chat with Martha Londagin, Training Coordinator for University of Arkansas' Small Business and Technology Development Center (ASBTDC) at the Walton College of Business. Martha and her team offer amazing resources to small business start-ups, entrepreneurs, and existing small business owners in the Northwest Arkansas region. Small Businesses in Arkansas make up 96% of all employers in the state, and they employ 49% of all people who work for private companies in Arkansas, these statistics are evident for the need of ASBTDC's services. We were so very thankful that Martha took time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about what the ASBTDC at the University of Arkansas offers to the community.
Our center serves all for-profit small businesses in NWA. A “Small Business” is most typically defined as one with under 500 employees. Our center is half funded by a federal Small Business Administration grant, and half by the University of Arkansas, Walton College, to be the hands and feet of the business school to help small businesses in the eight counties of NWA-Benton over to Marion, Washington over to Searcy.
We weekly work hand in hand with the area loan officers, wonderful chambers and main street associations of Rogers-Lowell, Fayetteville, Bentonville/Bella Vista, Siloam Springs, Springdale, Eureka Springs, Berryville, Huntsville, etc... to assist small business owners with start-up counseling (drafting business plans, helping them with loan process, providing free market research for them that can cost thousands of dollars such as competitor locations, personal information about the consumers in each town (such as how many people spent money on sports equipment for a child in 2012, how many people bought yoga equipment in the last six month, how man people over 65 or under 5 live in a town, how many swimming pools in a town, commercial rental pricing surveys, traffic counts, help them with traditional and social media marketing, etc.)
The training coordinator also recruits local marketing firms, attorneys, accountants, etc. to volunteer to do very low cost seminars ($30-40) to assist small business owners with legal issues, business operations assistance, QuickBooks, marketing, social media, etc. So a two-hour seminar with an attorney would have cost them $500.00 in her or his office, but the attorney volunteers with our center and thus it only costs $40. Often times these seminars are presented in conjunction with area chambers of commerce, business development groups, or local civic groups.
We are located right behind the Walton College main business building in the Reynolds Center. We have a staff of four.
Tell us about your typical client or demographic served...
People come to us from all walks of life to start businesses with us, some from scratch just wanting to try something new, some recent retirees, some seniors at the University of Arkansas like Mo Elliott of Fayettechill, new upstarts like Apple Blossom Brewing Company on Zion Road in Fayetteville whose owners have been trying to get a loan and open this brewery/restaurant since 2006. Small business owners and their staff members come to our seminars to learn how to start a business and grow one. Over 4,600 people attended our small business seminars in the state of Arkansas at all our centers in 2011.
Some start them when they face life changing events such as divorce, retirement, partial disability. U.S. Veterans can always attend our "How to Start a Business in Arkansas" seminar we do every month for free! In this time of “anti-tax, government overload” it is nice to see a program that benefits "for profit" people wanting to start businesses and pay taxes and hire employees to provide jobs and pay more taxes!
There are 236,000 small businesses in Arkansas as of January of 2012. Small Businesses in Arkansas make up 96% of all employers in the state, and they employ 49% of all people who work for private companies (not government jobs or not-for-profits, etc.).
78 % of these businesses only have less than 20 employees so are truly “small”. Small business owners who seek SBTDC services have 15.9 % more sales (are more successful and pay more taxes) than those who don’t come see us first.
In the last 10 years, our 7 centers throughout the state have created 2.7 new jobs PER DAY (over 9,800 total), and assisted owners in obtaining $478 million in financing and averaged $249,000 in new sales each day throughout the state. We are the state’s oldest business assistance program still in operation, over 30 years established in the state.
What type of trends have you seen in terms of economic development growth in NWA?
Our contacts with local loan officers evidence to us that banks are ready to make small business loans again, borrowers do need to have good credit ratings and experience in their field, but we are seeing greatly increased chances of them obtaining traditional loans and a great increase in traffic in our office for assistance to start a business and attendance at our start up seminars since the spring of 2013. We have also had several clients in the past six months expand and move to larger stores due to increased business and open second locations.
What advice would you give to those wanting to learn more about starting a business or moving a business to Northwest Arkansas?
1) Visit our center and consult with our business counselors or reach out to small business owners you know…. Experience is the best guide.
2) Plan, plan, and then plan. Write a business plan, obtain research from us or some other research, know all the pitfalls that you might fact BEFORE you commit to any contract or agreement.
What trainings and/or seminars are on the horizon through ASBTDC?
Attached is a snapshot of some of our Fall trainings. We would be happy to get anyone and everyone plugged in who has an interest. Also, we have been hired by the State of Arkansas Insurance Department to offer FREE seminars on the Affordable Care Act “Informed Businesses” series for small business owners.
We appreciate the opportunity to share about the ASBTDC, and hope that we can be a resource to anyone interested in learning more about small business growth or start-up in Northwest Arkansas.