LBCC Small Business Development Center upping efforts in E. Linn County

Linn-Benton Community College’s Small Business Development Center has reignited its efforts to boost business in east Linn County, SBDC representatives told a Lebanon Chamber of Commerce Forum audience on June 29.

Charlie Mitchell, director of the LBCC branch of the SBDC, which has 19 centers statewide, and former local business owner Marlene Peterson, now a business adviser for SBDC, described the programs being offered in Lebanon and Sweet Home to help established and prospective business owners.

They include “a variety of classes” and free one-on-one advising, Mitchell said.  The most recent of those is a nine-month business management class for established small business owners in Sweet Home, which has been in session since January.

“I’m really excited to be part of the launch – or re-launch – of the Small Business Management Program,” said Peterson, who owned a food manufacturing business in the Lebanon area for 20 years.

She announced that a similar class is planned to start next Jan. 15 at LBCC’s Lebanon campus.

The class in Sweet Home, she said, is made up of 10 people representing seven businesses, whose tenure in those businesses ranges from two to more than 13 years. They are from Sweet Home, Lebanon and Brownsville.

“They have a variety of experience,” Peterson said, noting that it’s a collaborative environment. “Members of the class often teach more than I can.”

Mitchell said the SBDC offers a wide range of services and instruction to local businesses or would-be entrepreneurs, with classes ranging from free single-day classes such as “Going Into Business” to extended workshops and seminars dealing with such topics as leadership, digital marketing and strategizing, Quickbooks, contractor and real estate licensing, and more.

The LBCC branch is part of the college’s Extended Learning program of non-credit classes and its $400,000 annual budget is funded by the federal and state governments, the college and student fees. It also receives grants, such as one from the Ford Family Foundation that is funding the lion’s share of a Digital Transformation Seminar that will be offered July 18 at the Sweet Home Center, open to local business proprietors. (See page 6.)

Mitchell said SBDC has two full-time staff members, himself and an assistant, Anne Green, and 13 small business advisers, 10 of whom teach classes.  It has offices on the LBCC campus in Albany, in Corvallis and Sweet Home and Mitchell said efforts are under way to place one at the Lebanon Center.

The Sweet Home business class is led by Peterson and George Medellin, who is stationed in Sweet Home as a business adviser for SBDC.

Peterson related examples of business owners who got help from SBDC advisers.

One, she said, started with SBDC with a business that was grossing half a million dollars a year. Now, seven years later, the owner and his adviser still work together and the company is grossing seven figures.

Another came to SBDC fearing he was going to have to close his business, which would have meant eliminating a number of family-wage jobs.

“Over a year, he and an adviser developed a plan and saved those jobs,” Peterson said, adding that the company is also now grossing seven figures annually.

Sixty percent of LBCC’s SBDC clients are already in business, while 40 percent are people thinking about starting one, Mitchell said.

Peterson said the Going Into Business seminars are a good way for people to do a gut check of what it takes to be successful as an entrepreneur.

“If you’ve ever thought about starting your own business, we’ll take you through the realities,” she said. “It’s not just being good at something or making something.”

She said it’s sometimes rewarding to stop an eager would-be entrepreneur from “falling on their face” or losing their life savings in an ill-advised business attempt.

“I often feel that I’m as successful when I convince someone not to go into business as when they do go into a successful business.”

For more information, visit biz center.org and click on the LBCC link, or call (541) 917-4929 or 4840.