Good Luck

August 23rd, 2019

open signELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times


People looking to build their own businesses typically need some assistance in one way or another in getting started, and Liberal has just the center to help with that. 

The Small Business Development Center located on the Seward County Community College campus, has been around for many years and continues to help people looking to get a sure footing on building a new business. Maria Dennison, who started as the center’s director in January, was recently on hand at last week’s Liberal City Commission meeting to give an update on the center’s work throughout the past year. 

“The functions of the SBDC are to provide training, advice and consulting,” Dennison said. “In 2017, we had 823 hours of training and advising that happened out of the Liberal office. We had 100 clients and spent an average of 8.7 hours with each of those individuals. This year, we started a different model and approached existing businesses from a training and educational standpoint in order to help entrepreneurs get a better footing when they get into business. We’re seeing a lack of some of that important knowledge, which causes a great deal of failure about six months to a year into their business. This year so far, we’ve spent 419 hours with clients, we have 63 of them to date and spend an average of 6.9 hours with each of them.”

Dennison then compared more training statistics between 2017 and 2018. 

“Those have drastically changed and this is where we’re starting to see more of the fruits of our labor with the new business model we’ve started working with,” Dennison said. “In 2017, we had 22 training events, which include everything from a resource partner, which consists of us, KDOT, KDOR, those entities. When we get together with them and go throughout our western region in order to educate of business start-ups, entrepreneurships and our specialty programs, that’s where those are being generated from. This year alone, we’ve done 43 different events in this region, we’ve had 723 attendees to those this year compared to 177 last year, and the training hours for all of those combined has added up to 814 hours. So we’ve got a very strong footing and foundation when it comes to education and the opportunity to provide that multiple individuals for little to no cost per event.”

The SBDC’s top areas of assistance, Dennison continued, are business plans, startups, transition of ownership, managing a business, access to capital, accounting and financing, and cash flow management. 

“Especially with startup and transition of ownership, if we can help business owners successfully pass on their legacy to the next generation, we’ll see those existing businesses thrive,” Dennison said. “Right now, going from the current generation to the next generation is only a 3 percent success rate. This is definitely an area of education business owners are needing and it’s rather widespread.”

Dennison said the SBDC serves many different business types, with the top one being in the service and retail industry. Dennison also talked about results from a recent Docking study.  

“Every year, in order to justify our offering of free services to the community, we actually survey all of our clients at the state level,” Dennison said. “For every dollar invested in the SBDC, our local return-on-investment has been 14.6 back into the community. We had 11 business starts last year and how our Docking study works is in February, we surveyed everyone for 2017 and found a capital infusion of $2.9 million, increased sales at our existing businesses we helped of $1.6 million, we created 27 full-time jobs, 19 part-time jobs and businesses were able to retain 86 jobs because of the advising services they’d received from the SBDC. The tax contribution at the federal, state and local level was a $1.7 million infusion, which was great for everything for last year.”

The SBDC has also seen high client satisfaction (95.6 percent), which Dennison said can be attributed to many factors including knowing local markets and working with local government. Dennison also praised the work of local businesses in Liberal and talked about the core services offered through the Kansas SBDC, including finance, marketing, management, startup and many specialty services. Dennison concluded her presentation by praising the work of the center again as well as that of the local businesses having been helped by the center’s advising and training assistance. 

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