Many people dream of owning a business someday, but it can be a difficult road that some have no idea how to navigate.
Big parts of that map were explained Thursday at a seminar in San Bernardino hosted by the Inland Southern California office of the Minority Business Development Agency. Representatives of several organizations offered a basic list of resources to people who have either started their own businesses or would like to.
For example, the U.S. Small Business Administration has existed since 1953. But not everyone, including people who aspire to become entrepreneurs, knows about the agency and what it does, despite the fact that some predecessor agencies had been around since before the Great Depression.
"My father ran a bakery in Los Angeles and never knew about these programs," said Rachel Baranick, deputy director of the SBA's Orange County office, which also covers San Bernardino and Riverside counties. "And I really wish he had."
The agency is mostly known for facilitating low-cost loans and guaranteeing bank loans. But it also has counseling services and a full line of referrals.
The SBA also is the agency that funds SCORE, the Senior Corps of Retired Executives, an agency made up of former high-ranking employees who volunteer their time and expertise. SCORE volunteers regularly man tables at places such as libraries and Chamber of Commerce offices.
SCORE currently offers counseling in Riverside, Corona, Fontana, San Bernardino, Banning, Beaumont, Yucaipa, Murrieta, Temecula, Hemet, San Jacinto, Redlands and Moreno Valley. The group is always looking for more volunteers and locations, spokesperson Gail Youngblood said in a recent interview.
The Inland area also has several locations for the Small Business Development Center, which now operates under the stewardship of Cal State San Bernardino's Center for Entrepreneurship after having been overseen by the Inland Empire Economic Partnership for two decades.
Vincent McCoy, who has remained as the small business group's director, said his agency's job is a "de facto translator," meaning a would-be entrepreneur can have the details about small business ownership explained.
"We may not have all the answers but probably we've heard all the questions in the 20 years we've been in business," McCoy said.
One advantage businesses can get comes from the Workforce Investment Boards run by each Inland county. The city of San Bernardino also has its own workforce board.
Job hunters regularly visit these offices, but Jamil Dada, vice president for investments at Riverside-based Provident Financial Holdings and president of the state's Workforce Investment Board, said that not all business owners know it is a two-way pipeline. The workforce offices can also help businesses locate qualified workers.
"The centers can be matchmakers. Like every market, there's a buyer and a seller," Dada said.
That can save small business owners -- who might have to weed out 100 resumes to find five with proper qualifications -- hours of time. Also, Dada said, at least half of Workforce Investment Boards are made up of business owners or high-ranking executives who tend to know what companies are looking for.
The small business environment seems to be improving, although some question whether that has led to significant hiring. The Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index last week reported that small business owners are the most optimistic since July 2008.
However, only 15 percent said they are currently looking for new employees. Half of all business owners surveyed said as a general rule, they find it very difficult (21 percent) or somewhat difficult (32 percent) to find the right, qualified employees for their businesses. The study is based on about 600 telephone interviews conducted in mid-January.
McCoy said Inland businesses with 100 or fewer employers "has spent the last 18 months getting caught up to 2009 levels" of activity.
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