Businesses begin in a variety of ways.
Someone has an idea, they're sure it will work and off they go.
Or they relocate to a new area lacking something -- a bakery, maybe -- and see a niche.
But between idea and profit, there are a lot of steps.
It's at that point organizations like SCORE and the Small Business Development Center can lend a hand, whether that's arranging financial counseling, connecting owners with a patent attorney or pointing the entrepreneur toward a bank.
"The goal is to build the economic vitality in the communities we serve by helping business become more successful," said Brett Rogers, Washington state director for the SBDC. "We can help at whatever stage they're in, whether startup, growth or developing an exit strategy. It's all about trying to give the clients what they need in order to make informed decisions."
Clients who arrive at the SBDC, which is affiliated with colleges and universities across the country, can receive free assistance and the tools to make informed decisions. It often falls into advising, Rogers said.
"We're pretty comfortable in that role," he said. "We can act as an adviser to businesses to understand why they need accounting or a lawyer. We can't practice law and we don't do accounting, but we can guide them that way."
The Pullman SBDC office is at the WSU Research and Technology Park, and the north-central Idaho SBDC is at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston.
Although the SBDC and SCORE have some overlap, SCORE often deals more with brand-new and very small businesses, said David McKenzie, chapter chairman for the Moscow-Pullman SCORE district. The regional district is part of the Spokane district and should launch fully later this spring.
SCORE, which is a partner with the Small Business Administration, puts businesses in touch with mentors, whether that's a specialized attorney, a retired professional in the field or anyone else a business might need -- sometimes, just someone to rearrange furniture, thereby increasing production. The counselors are volunteers and SCORE's services are usually free.
"The basic question for a lot of folks is that they need someone to say either 'You're brilliant!' or 'You're an idiot,' " McKenzie said.
That line can come from a volunteer counselor or a coordinator like McKenzie, who's worked with SCORE for five years. SCORE's essential mission statement is "Counselor's to America's small business," McKenzie said.
McKenzie sees the Palouse region as prime for SCORE, and he plans to expand to Lewiston and Clarkston once this area is rolling.
"We have two universities and a vibrant local economy with amazing businesses," he said. "We've got great business people, professors and retired people who can be great counselors."
Both organizations have long histories in Washington, Idaho and throughout the country, and have weathered several economic storms.
But now, new needs arise.
The Washington SBDC recently established an export program to assist businesses in sending goods abroad.
"The international trade piece is important for businesses to think about because 95 percent of the world's customers are outside of the U.S.," Rogers said, though he noted that many small businesses, especially those with service focuses, don't have that need.
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