News Column

Free Help for Beginning Entrepreneurs

Feb. 4, 2013

Emma Sapong

Hispanic businesswoman

If you're harboring dreams of owning a business or can't seem to get a current venture off the ground, there's help. The area has a bevy of resources that can arm you with much-needed business acumen.

And most of the offerings are free or affordable.

From mentoring to networking to technical training opportunities, comprehensive business training is attainable through various programs.

"A lot of them cover the basics of business -- organizational structure, legal aspects, marketing -- and they are low cost or no cost to entrepreneurs," said Beth O'Keefe, business development officer at Erie County Industrial Development Agency. "Some of them cover all aspects of business, but a lot of them cover certain things for an entrepreneur to get the basics needed for starting a business."

While the resources are plentiful, a few have eligibility requirements. Some of the programs are geared toward women and minority-owned startups, but the majority of the area's offerings are open to all aspiring business owners.

There are also funding sources, like the ECIDA and the U.S. Small Business Administration, but to get startup capital, you have to have your business plan fully developed, O'Keefe said.

Here's where to get started:

New York State's Entrepreneurial Assistance Program
Medaille College
121 Humboldt Ave.
880-3288
esd.ny.gov/BusinessPrograms/EAP

Aims to spur the creation of new businesses by training first-time business owners to turn their concepts into realities via comprehensive training, counseling and support for e-marketing, contract procurement, licensing, web design, and capital and credit.

SCORE Buffalo
540 Niagara Center
130 S. Elmwood Ave.
551-4301
buffaloniagara.score.org

Free business advice and personal mentoring from retired business executives in workshops and one-on-one settings. In Erie County, counseling is available at the main Buffalo office, typically from Monday through Friday by appointment only.

"Starting & Managing Your Own Business" is a daylong workshop with experts from different fields covering business plans, business law, financing, accounting, federal and state taxes, government resources and other topics. The next workshop will be offered from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 20 in North Tonawanda Library, 505 Meadow Drive, North Tonawanda. Cost is $30. Register at buffaloniagara.score.org.

Small Business Development Center
Buffalo State College
Cleveland Hall 206
1300 Elmwood Ave.
878-4030
www.buffalostate.edu/sbdc

Seven business advisers offer free services to people who own businesses at all levels.

One-on-one counseling is the program's main attraction, offering help with business-plan writing, market research, financial analysis and the feasibility of a business idea.

University at Buffalo
UB Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership
UB Downtown Gateway
77 Goodell Street, Suite 201
885-5715

www.mgt.buffalo.edu/cel

The Allstate Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneur Program pairs participants with two established business owners to serve as mentors. The mentors are graduates of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership's Core Program, a program for business leaders.

The program also teaches marketing and how to establish business goals, and links participants with organizations and other community resources that can assist with business development. It is a fee-based certificate program.

Westminster Economic Development Initiative
724 Delaware Ave.
870-6843
www.westminster-bflo.org/WEDI

Economic development arm of the Westminster Presbyterian Church's community revitalization program gives training and co-signs micro-loans for entrepreneurs who start businesses on the West Side. Also provides funding for some vendors in the West Side Bazaar on Grant Street.

Women's Business Center
Canisius College
Demerly Hall
2365 Main St.
888-8280
www.canisius.edu/wbc

Offers women training seminars, workshops and networking opportunities. Participants can access Canisius business courses; get advice from business coaches; and attend a forum series offering ideas and strategies. One-on-one counseling sessions are free. Some workshops are free, while others are $30. Year-long membership programs cost $300 or $750. Financial aid and scholarships are available.



Source: (c)2013 The Buffalo News (Buffalo, N.Y.) Distributed by MCT Information Services