Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Written by Gregg Gothreaux

The Louisiana Small Business Development Center’s seminars are aspiring entrepreneurs’ first step toward success.

It is small businesses — existing businesses growing with the parish and new businesses relocating to or starting up in the area — that keep Lafayette’s economy fresh, vibrant and diversified. LEDA provides services complemented by other local economic development ally services that when used in tandem can get a small business off to a good start, helping to keep the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in Acadiana.

One of the biggest assets to the local entrepreneur, whether existing or potential, is the Louisiana Small Business Development Center. This month, I asked Mark Galyean, director of the local LSBDC office, to share some information about the services they provide to small businesses.

The Louisiana Small Business Development Center at UL Lafayette, one of more than 1,000 SBDCs located at universities across the U.S., is a partnership between the university, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and Louisiana Economic Development. The nationally accredited and award-winning center provides high-quality business consulting services at no cost, offers more than 40 business training programs per year and maintains business information resources to help grow and diversify the Louisiana economy.

“The primary mission of the LSBDC is to assist with the expansion of existing companies throughout its eight-parish service area in Acadiana,” says Galyean. “However, there is such a great demand from potential entrepreneurs for guidance that the LSBDC has created a process to assist those who are in the initial research phases of their business projects.”

The first step, if the client has never previously owned a business, is to attend one of LSBDC’s frequent, low-cost, business start-up seminars, followed by a one-on-one session with one of the center’s well-versed consultants. The center has many long-terms clients they have worked with from the start-up phase through the establishment and eventual expansion of their companies.

The goal in providing these “Business Basics” seminars is to take the mystery out of starting a business and to remove as much confusion as possible for the potential entrepreneur while focusing on what is necessary to be successful. Locally, LSBDC has in-house expertise and meaningful experience in business management, international trade, banking, loan package development, market research, financial modeling and countless other aspects of business.

In the initial seminars, the center’s counselors share information about real world concerns, including defining the market for goods and services, determining the strengths and weaknesses of potential competitors and the assumption of the risks associated with starting and growing a business.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the two-hour business basics seminar is the time spent discussing the business planning process. The focus, in particular, is placed on understanding the financial models LSBDC builds for its clients. The clients will use these tools in the future as operational roadmaps.

“We demonstrate so many aspects of developing a solid, yet simple and executable business plan that often clients who attend these initial seminars are well-prepared for the first meeting they have with one of our consultants,” says Galyean. “A great deal of our success is based on the faith in us that our stakeholders such as UL Lafayette and area service partners such as the Lafayette Economic Development Authority have in our ability to provide value to the business community in the region.”

LEDA’s mission — to provide assistance to existing businesses and start-ups and to attract new businesses to the Parish — meshes well with the goals of LSBDC, making for a beneficial relationship for both organizations and our clients. At LEDA, we work to fulfill our mission to assist start-ups, new and existing businesses in several ways.

LEDA serves as an information clearinghouse, offering market analysis assistance to existing and prospective businesses. LEDA’s team of researchers have access to data points ranging from retail sales to employment figures and can gather competitor and consumer data to assist in the growth and development of small businesses. Data from LEDA’s Information Services department such as custom demographics, competitive analysis and industry research may be used by start-up businesses to substantiate a business plan.

LEDA can help a start-up or expanding business locate potential sites for development. Our Business Development department works closely with local Realtors and maintains a database of available commercial and industrial facilities and vacant land. LEDA offers numerous seminars throughout the year to educate business owners about workforce training programs, tax programs and other business development programs. We also host a networking luncheon that offers a small business or start-up the opportunity to meet up to 150 people each month at an affordable Dutch treat lunch meeting. Add in our Business Visitation Program, with an annual goal of meeting with 550 individual company decision makers, and LEDA easily touches more than a thousand businesses each year.

A perfect illustration of LEDA’s collaboration with other economic development allies is the Opportunity Machine. The OM is a technology business accelerator and incubator that is a partnership between LEDA, Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise, LSBDC, the Moody College of Business Administration at UL Lafayette and the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. Southern Business and Development named the OM one of the top 10 collective economic development efforts in the South in their April 2011 issue alongside the Aerospace Alliance on the Gulf Coast, regional alliances in Southern Virginia, South Carolina’s Center for Hydrogen Research and others.

Entrepreneurs and business owners in Acadiana continue to take their success and translate it into opportunities for new entrepreneurs and new business development, as well as for the overall growth of the community. It’s because of this that LEDA, LSBDC and our other allies consistently strive to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit of our clients. Mark Galyean and I encourage you to call our organizations and use our services. Together we can continue the legacy of great, home-grown entrepreneurs right here in our back yard.

LSBDC Director: Mark Galyean
www.lsbdc.org
(337) 262-5344

- Gregg Gothreaux is president and CEO of the Lafayette Economic Development Authority.

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