2018-01-07 / Insight

SBDC: Development of business plan, market research key to start-up success

BY PHIL FOLEY
810-452-2616 • pfoley@mihomepaper.com


Oregon Township’s Claire Campbell whips up some cake batter at Chef G’s in Lapeer. The small restaurant employs four people. 
Photo by Phil Foley Oregon Township’s Claire Campbell whips up some cake batter at Chef G’s in Lapeer. The small restaurant employs four people. Photo by Phil Foley LAPEER COUNTY — Lots of people dream of being their own boss or that they could run things better than their boss, but the hard reality, according to the Small Business Administration, is that within two years a third of all startups have folded and at the end of five years only half remain open.

No matter how brilliant the idea in your brain, the passion in your heart and fire in your belly, unless you have a Dutch Uncle you could probably use a coach to help you avoid the pitfalls that lead to dashed dreams.

That’s where the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) comes in. Based at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, with 11 regional offices (including one at Kettering University in Flint) and more than 20 satellite offices around the state, the SBDC provides fledgling businesses with business plan development assistance, marketing research, help in raising capital and other services.


North Branch resident Virginia “Ginny” Bruman opened Chef G’s in downtown Lapeer last March with a help from the Small Business Development Center. 
Photos by Phil Foley North Branch resident Virginia “Ginny” Bruman opened Chef G’s in downtown Lapeer last March with a help from the Small Business Development Center. Photos by Phil Foley Last year SBDC staffers out of the Kettering office helped three Lapeer County entrepreneurs raise $1.3 million to open businesses that employed 84 people. In 2016 114 people got jobs after SBDC staffers helped five entrepreneurs raise $1.7 million to open new businesses in the county.

Janis Mueller, who took over as regional director of the SBDC’s I-69 Trade Corridor Region in August, said that depending on the time of year, her staff is working with anywhere between 10 and 25 would-be Lapeer County start-ups.

Mueller said the first place a potential business owner should start is with one of the SBDC’s free Small Business Workshops. She said the SBDC holds about 30 of the workshops annually in its seven-county region that includes Lapeer, Genesee, Huron, Sanilac, Shiawassee, St. Clair and Tuscola counties.


Virginia “Ginny” Bruman works on her weekly order. With 25 years of experience in the restaurant business she said she knew how to run a kitchen, but the SBDC helped her work through the maze of rules and regulations to open her doors. Virginia “Ginny” Bruman works on her weekly order. With 25 years of experience in the restaurant business she said she knew how to run a kitchen, but the SBDC helped her work through the maze of rules and regulations to open her doors. She noted that since the SBDC office at Kettering only has three fulltime and three part-time employees, it holds monthly workshops at the Oak Business Center, 2712 Saginaw St. in Flint. She added SBDC holds several workshops a year at the Mott Community College campus in Lapeer.

The next Starting a Business Workshop is set for 1-3:30 p.m., Jan. 17 in Flint.

Mueller said it’s designed for those considering self-employment, or who may be at the beginning stages of starting a business. The workshop covers the process of starting and operating, evaluating market potential for products/services, costs and financing options, plus business planning.

She said it’s free but you have to register at clients.sbdcmichigan.org/ workshop.aspx?ekey=60380001.

Mueller said the workshop is an important first step for someone who has an idea, but not a great deal of business experience.

Virginia “Ginny” Bruman, who opened Chef G’s in downtown Lapeer in March, had 25 years restaurant experience and came armed with a 40-page business plan, but didn’t understand the maze of regulations involved in opening a restaurant.

“They put it all together for me,” Bruman said of the SBDC’s Harry Blecker and Patricia Lucas, executive director of the Lapeer Development Corp.

“I had a menu and I designed a kitchen,” she said, “but the legalities and the numbers I’m not good at.” Bruman was surprised to find “there’s not a list for you to go by” in getting from point A to point B in setting up a business.

She said Blecker and Lucas helped her work her way through the maze of rules and regulations and Lucas helped her secure financing.

Mueller said that’s a big part of what SBDC does. She noted that along with a staff of more than 100 spread throughout its statewide network of offices, her office can also draw on help from partners at MSU Extension, Rural Development and USDA among others.

“It’s all about education,” Mueller said, and the first step is attending a Starting a Business Workshop.

The next step is completing a Writing a Business Plan workshop. The next one will be held from 1-3:30 p.m. Jan. 31.

Mueller said having a solid plan is critical for creating a successful business.

“If you don’t plan for it, it will eat you alive,” she said. But once you’ve completed a Starting a Business workshop and a Writing a Business Plan, you’re ready to sit down with an SBDC staff member for some face-toface consulting.

“We don’t do the work for you,” Mueller said, but the agency will help you head in the right direction and avoid the common pitfalls.

Two of the most common, she said, is lack of market research and lack of a marketing plans. She noted a lot of small businesses budget just enough to get the doors open and leave nothing to market their product or service to customers.

“Anyone can own a business with dedication, hard work, and some planning,” Mueller said.

For more information on the free services SBDC can provide to the new businessperson, visit www.sbdcMichigan.org or call Mueller at 810-762- 9660.

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