Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Help is Available

Maybe it’s because I’m a closet “foodie” but whenever I run across a story in the press about the food and hospitality industry, I always read it. In the Wall Street Journal, the story titled, Sweet Returns, I also liked the message. In particular, note the issue of reinvention and seeking out of resources from the community.

So, instead of hunkering down and hoping the economic downturn would be short-lived, Mr. Gottenbusch reinvented his business. With the help of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a program partially funded by the Department of Commerce and designed to give small firms access to manufacturing specialists and other advisers, Mr. Gottenbusch looked for new customers in unusual places, created unique products to drive store traffic, joined a purchasing association to keep costs in check and took advantage of the real-estate slump to scoop up a new store location on the cheap.

The result: Servatii not only survived last year, it thrived, with sales rising 15% to $8.5 million. Mr. Gottenbusch declined to give profit figures.

As an entrepreneur, one of the biggest mistakes I made was in trying to do it all on my own. I never once turned to the colleges or universities in my home town of Orlando, and never once did I turn to the resource providers such as the SBA, Department of Commerce or others that could have helped me. Now that I’m in the academic world, I always remind entrepreneurs that there are resources out there in the community, many at no or very low cost, that can help you grow your business. The challenge for the resource providers is to find ways to reach the entrepreneur. The entrepreneur needs the help; they just can’t spend the time trying to look around the town to find it. The resource providers need to find ways to reach their potential client and make accessing their services simple and easy.

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