Becoming a small-business owner—and then maintaining that business—can be a challenge for many in the community who want to share their vision.
Fortunately, the Texas State University Small Business Development Center specializes in business advising and training. The center covers the 12-county area of Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lampasas, Lee, Llano, San Saba, Travis and Williamson counties.
The center has locations in San Marcos, Austin and Round Rock, and offers an array of learning and advising sessions that are geared to help individuals and/or small businesses to get their business off the ground or to expand.
Joe Harper became the Texas State University SBDC director one year ago and brought with him the experience of leading six SBDC centers in Texas and Louisiana, in addition to being a successful entrepreneur and a professor of entrepreneurship classes at the university level.
“We provide the insight into market validation and provide the research to help an individual go forward with the development of their company,” Harper said. “Our purpose is to provide technical assistance to people already in business or with an executable business plan and keep them sustainable.”
With that in mind, Harper said the center must qualify a business or individual for services. He and the center's staff look at things like equity, credit scores and a conceptual business to determine the feasibility of any given business plan.
Sometimes, Harper said, that means telling a prospective client that now is not the time to go into business.
Harper said it is not uncommon for people to come into his office with expectations that are not in line with SBDC’s mission.
“We are a technical assistance provider,” Harper said. “We don’t do it for you. The work is left up to the individual. We can guide and advise you.”
For those who do make the cut, the SBDC advocates their success with two key services:
• Business advising: A confidential service provided by advisers who go through a multilevel certification process and attend professional development training. Clients may also seek guidance from this adviser during the life of the business.
• Training: A series of low-cost classes aimed at empowering entrepreneurs. Class offerings include profit mastery, online mastery, video mastery and research mastery. The center also provides hands-on workshops with technical experts to help business owners obtain skills to compete in the market, such as Web mastery that includes search engine optimization marketing.
In addition, the SBDC has a new, one-of-a-kind offering. The center has constructed a video studio in its office on the Texas State University Round Rock campus for clients to create their own videos to help market their business.
Clients have access to video cameras, lights, backdrops, a teleprompter and more. The equipment was carefully chosen to make the process as simple as possible so clients do not get bogged down in the process of video editing.
Although there is no charge for this service, business owners must be clients of the center and must have attended their video mastery class series to get studio time.
Harper said that although the current market may seem volatile, there is more money available now than before to help entrepreneurs start their businesses.
The challenge, Harper said, is that regulations and policies get in the way of lending; the SDBC can help individuals learn how to clear those hurdles.
“We are not staffed to do it. We are staffed to teach it,” Harper said. “We have professional consultants on staff, and we have access to other professionals. Together we work at trying to give our clients the access of where to go next.”
The SBDC has three offices in the area:
314 E. Highland Mall Blvd., Ste. 304
Austin, TX 78752
1555 University Blvd., Ste. 265
Round Rock, TX 78665
1340 Wonder World Drive, Ste. 108
San Marcos, TX 78666
Information is also available on the center's website.