Episode 52 – Free Government Resources to Help You Start a Business

May 17, 2017

This Episode

Mark Stephenson, Marc Vila and Bill Burnham - Florida Small Business Development Center at USF

You Will Learn

  • Free government resources to help you start a business.

Resources & Links

Episode 52 – Free Government Resources to Help You Start a Business

Show Notes

You can get amazing help for free. That’s it, no strings attached. Your local Small Business Association(SBA) has many ways to help your business. If you are just getting started or have been in business for years, there are ways you can get advice, learn something new or just get active in your local small business community. Join us with Bill Burnham from the Florida Small Business Development Center at USF as we discuss how your business can get amazing help.


Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!

Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!

Mark S: Hey, everyone! Thank you for tuning in to yet another episode of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company. Today we’re here to talk about local small business help, with our special guest, Bill Burnham, of the FSBDC, the Florida Small Business Development Center at USF.

Mark S: Bill, you definitely get welcomed to the podcast, and you definitely get the award for the most letters involved in any organization that we’ve talked about.

Bill: Thanks for having me. We’re big on acronyms, here at the FSBDC. So, thanks!

Marc V: Especially when you drop in the “at USF,” and if the “at” is an @ symbol, I think that counts. So, that’s nine? I love it!

Mark S: Yeah. This is episode 52, right? That’s pretty good.

Marc V: It is episode 52. And Mark, you brought this guest on, which means that I need to find one with ten or more.

Mark S: That’s true! We have a new challenge.

Marc V: I’m not letting that title be yours forever.

Mark S: We sought out Bill for a couple of reasons, just by way of setup. We get the same kind of basic questions in the Custom Apparel Startups Facebook group, that all small businesses or entrepreneurs or startups ask. And that is things like “Where do I get financing? Tell me about SBA loans. Do I need a business plan? What does that look like? Where can I find business?”

Because when people started filling out the surveys to join the Facebook group, we started realizing that the number one question is “What do I do?” They want to start a business, but they’re not really sure exactly what it should be.

And the next question is kind of different versions of “How do I start a business?” So, that’s what made me reach out to Bill, because I’ve taken advantage of that service at least two times, in the past.

Marc V: Oh, really? Okay! Good, then. I think that resources like this are fantastic. My father, who had started his own small business when I was a teenager, he had described to me how important local small business organizations were, to actually helping their community, and how much they actually did for all of these small business owners, locally.

And as Bill mentioned before, at no cost. Most of these organizations, organizations like his and some similar, do this for the betterment of the community. And so many people don’t take advantage of it.

Mark S: Right. Bill, why don’t you tell us who you are, and what the FSBDC does?

Bill: Okay. My name is Bill Burnham. The FSBDC, the Florida Small Business Development Center is part of a nationwide organization of Small Business Development Centers whose charter it is, really, is to enhance economic development, and to enhance economic development through supporting small businesses; helping them get started, helping them grow, helping them succeed, so that they can in turn provide additional jobs in the community, which ultimately leads to economic growth for the community.

At the FSBDC, we can really help a small business owner at any stage of their business, whether they’re pre-venture, “I have an idea and don’t know exactly what to do.” Like you mentioned, Mark, some of the folks that come to you and ask you those types of questions, all the way through “Hey, I’ve started. My business is growing. I’m thinking about buying a piece of property to expand. Can you help me with that?”

“I want to get into government contracting. Can you tell me how to do that?” “I think I’m a small disadvantaged business. I want to take advantage of some of the certifications that are available. How can I do that?”

Even to the point of “I’ve been in business for many, many years, and I’m thinking about an exit plan. I want to know what my business is worth, and start planning for that process.” We can help with that, as well.

As you can see, from pre-startup all the way through to exit, we probably have something to offer to every small business, wherever they happen to be in that spectrum.

Mark S: I love that. You mentioned that this is the Florida branch, and it’s attached to USF, because you’re in the Tampa Bay area. How would people around the country find similar offices, like yours?

Bill: There’s a couple of ways they can do that. One would be just to Google “small business administration SBA.” You’ll find a link in there to the Small Business Development Center office, with a locator type of thing where you plug in your zip code. It will tell you where the nearest office is.

Or just Google “small business development center” in whatever town you happen to be living in, or county you happen to be living in, and an office will pop up in the Google search.

Mark S: Let’s say in that pre-startup phase, what are some of the most common questions that you get?

Bill: Probably the most common question is “Is my idea a good one? What do you think? Do you think there’s a market for this?” Those are kind of normal questions we get. “How do I get started? Do I need a business license? Do I need to register with the state?” Those are kind of common questions that we get.

What we try to tell folks, when they first come in, is to spend some time doing feasibility analysis, to make sure that there is actually a market for what they want to do. A lot of times, our ideas sound really good to us, but they’re not necessarily an idea that has a market that’s going to support what the ultimate income level is that the client would like to achieve.

Mark S: Yeah. I’ve had two of those, so I definitely understand. Just to interject a quick story here, the first time I went to the SBDC was – I can’t remember how long ago, but it was a long time ago, when my wife and I decided to go into business, importing bamboo fabric t-shirts.

We developed a brand and found a source, and did our own little internal financing. We got our licenses, and we ran through all of that part with the local SBDC. So, that was great advice, working on the parts of the business plan and things like that, with you guys. That’s actually how I know about you.

Otherwise, I think you guys are pretty much a big secret. We’ve got 6,500 listeners that are all asking these questions, so I’m glad to be able to help get the word out of what you do.

Bill: Yeah. We say that a lot, that we’re the best kept secret in town. It’s amazing how many times clients come in for the first time, and it’s like “Wow! I didn’t even know you guys were here!” I didn’t know you did all these types of things!”

We work very diligently to try to get the word out, but it’s a long, slow process.

Mark S: I get that.

Marc V: What’s kind of curious about the whole thing is oftentimes, I’ll advise somebody, like “That’s a great question for your local SBA chapter.” And they look at me like “Well, why would I go there?” Or “What’s that?”

I’m like “There are so many resources that are free, and there’s people waiting for you, literally waiting for you to come ask these questions. And you’re asking me a question that I’m not going to pretend like I’m going to be a master on. I’m not going to read the financial part of your business plan and analyze all of that, to be able to give the most educated answer for your county or state or city.”

Mark S: Right. A lot of folks that we talk to, they’re going into business, and it’s going to be a home-based business. Could you guys tell me, for example, if I’m in Pinellas County, Florida, whether I need a special license or anything, to start a screen printing business or a t-shirt business, that kind of thing?

Bill: There’s generally not a special license that’s required. The counties around the Tampa Bay area tend to differ a little bit. I know you guys work nationally, throughout the country, with your clients. So, laws tend to vary from state to state and county to county and city to city.

In Pinellas County, for example, you would have to get a Business Tax License. It used to be called an Occupational License. Most of the municipalities that still use that vehicle, have changed the name over, over the years, from Occupational License to Business Tax License or Business Receipt License, and something like that.

But in Pinellas County and Hillsboro County, locally here, you would need such a thing. Pasco County, as well. If you go up as far north as Hernando County, Hernando County does not require the Business Tax License. So like I said, it kind of varies from state to state.

If there’s any doubt, you can either, again, Google and look at the individual municipality, or call us and we’ll help you do that research.

Mark S: So, whatever your local branch is out there, if you’re listening, that branch will be able to tell what the requirements are for licensing and sales tax IDs and things along those lines.

Bill: Right. The answer is yes. Now sales tax, of course, in the state of Florida, is a state – the Florida Department of Revenue actually handles that. We always advise our clients to contact the Florida Department of Revenue, explain to them what it is they’re thinking about doing, and then get a determination from them as to whether they’re going to actually need the Sales Tax Certificate or not.

If they do, in Florida, it’s a relatively simple online process to fill out the application. But again, we tell the clients if you have any problems with that, come into the office. We’ll walk you through it right there in the office, to assist them in getting that process taken care of.

Mark S: That’s awesome. One of our customers – typical questions might be, what does that whole thing cost? Like “I want to make a business name, I want to get my Business Tax License. I’m probably going to be selling retail, so I’m going to need my State Sales Tax License. What does that initial paperwork cost, maybe to – I’m probably going to start as a sole proprietor or an LLC.” What do you see, as far as a number goes, that that might cost?

Bill: To get started, a couple of things. One, if it’s a sole proprietorship, which in the state of Florida is really the simplest and the lowest cost approach that you can take, you would want to register a Fictitious Name with the state of Florida. That process can be done online.

In Florida, we have a website called Sunbiz.org, which is run by the Secretary of State in the state of Florida. Every state has similar types of systems set up, generally tied to the Secretary of State in that particular state.

So, you would register a Fictitious Name. It costs $50 to do that. In the state of Florida, that Fictitious Name registration is good for five years, so it has to be renewed every five years. The state will send you a friendly reminder when yours is about to expire. So, you need that.

As far as the Business Tax License, if you need that, it could vary a little bit. Generally, the average is about $150 to get started, and that’s something that has to be renewed every year. So, you’re going to pay that fee every year, to the particular county or municipality that you’re in.

Beyond that, assuming you’re going to have a website, you’ll have to register a domain name as a minimum. That’s relatively inexpensive these days. Ten bucks, usually you can get your domain name set up. In terms of the actual web hosting, that can run you a little more. If you have the capability to kind of do that yourself, and a lot of the hosting sites, such as GoDaddy and Wix, the ones that people are generally familiar with, make it fairly easy to do.

Mark S: Absolutely.

Bill: For $100, $150 or something like that, you can get a basic website set up.

That’s pretty much it. Sales tax, that doesn’t cost anything to get set up. Getting an Employer Identification Number, an EIN number, through the IRS, doesn’t cost anything to do that. So, that’s kind of a basic, nutshell cost.

Now, say you decided you needed a Limited Liability Company, as opposed to just a basic Fictitious Name registration, the cost there would be a little bit more, in the state of Florida. I’ll say, just on the rough side, around $150 to get started with that. Again, that’s something you can do on Sunbiz.org, and you can do yourself.

With that, there is also yearly – an annual report that has to be filed with the state, which costs $150 per year.

Mark S: Because now you’re a company, really.

Marc V: You’re a business.

Bill: Yeah, more of a structured entity, with the idea that it’s going to be more than just you in this business.

Mark S: Really, I asked you that question specifically so people could get an idea, not only of the costs involved, but also that you’re actually the people to go to, to get that information, wherever they are locally. Because it’s going to be a little bit different in Texas. It’s going to be a lot different in New Jersey, and places like that.

Marc V: For the most part, you figure to set this up correctly the first time isn’t going to cost you more than a few hundred dollars, if you’re doing all of it. If you’re just doing the very basic, I think doing the simple math, for like $100, you could almost start a business. Then, if you’re going a little bit further, and you’re getting a domain and making an LLC, you’re into the few hundred dollars range.

But all of that right there that he said, is mildly intimidating.

Mark S: Yeah, it is.

Marc V: It’s intimidating to me, honestly, because I’m just like “Which one do I want and need?” These are all things that I think maybe part of the point of this whole podcast, and listening to this particular one, is to just get up, go down to this office or make an appointment, or look them up online, or just have a phone conversation with somebody.

Bring some paper in your hand. Whether you want them to help you make a decision or just point you in the right direction, you should do this, so you can do it correctly.

Because what’s going to happen is you’re going to want to focus on your embroidery business or your t-shirt printing business because it’s fun, but you’ve got to do this.

Mark S: Yeah. You didn’t get into business so you could do the paperwork.

Marc V: Yeah. So, get up, go somewhere, get this done correctly. If you’re already in business, I’m sure you can go to this organization and help to make sure you’re doing things in the right direction. Or maybe you want to make a change; change it into like an LLC or a corporation, and they can point you in the right direction for that, too.

But too many people do nothing. Then, now they’re already in business, and they turn around and they want to do something different, and now they’re backtracking, and they’re not sure where to go.

Mark S: No, it’s worse. I’ve done this. That’s “Oh, my God! I haven’t paid my sales tax in seven months!” Because penalties add up.

Definitely get a handle on the paperwork. I think we’ve talked about that before. You’ve got a resource here that’s free and readily available, and they’re pros that you can take advantage of, to say “Okay, I’m ready to go. What do I need to do, to start this business?” And they’ll pretty much walk you through the paperwork. Right, Bill?

Bill: That’s correct. A lot of times, I’ll have clients come into the office who have already done some of this. Unfortunately, as we talk through their situation a little bit, it becomes apparent very quickly that they maybe didn’t choose the right entity type, given the complexities of their business. So, I always tell people “Come to see us first.”

We’ll walk you through what the considerations are, that you need to think about, prior to making, for example, an entity type selection, so that you’ll make the right one for your situation, at that particular time.

The other thing I tell people is, all of the stuff we’ve talked about up to now are things that you can do yourself, with a little help, perhaps. So, it’s not necessary to pay someone to help you with these particular things. There’s a whole industry out there of individuals and companies who sort of prey on new entrepreneurs who don’t know any better.

I’ll have clients come in who have already set up their entity on Sunbiz, and they paid somebody $250 to help them set it up. It’s like “You didn’t need to do that. We could have walked you through that. It wouldn’t have cost you anything.” Unfortunately, it’s an expensive lesson learned, that hopefully they don’t repeat, when they’re moving on to the next step.

Mark S: Good advice. So, other than the “How do I actually start a business?”, I’ve got kind of two questions that we get. The first one is “Do I need a business plan, and what should that look like?” And then, it’s really always financing. It’s like “What’s the best way?” Or “What are the resources available for me to finance my equipment?”

Bill: Let’s talk about the business plan first. To say “Do I need a business plan?”, there are situations where a business plan may not be necessary, in absolute “have to have it” type of terms. However, we recommend that it’s always a good idea to go through that process, even if you’re not going to need it for a specific, for example, financing, where a bank is going to require it.

The reason we say it’s a good idea is because it takes you through the feasibility process of determining “Is this business really feasible? Is there really a target market? What does my target market look like? Is it big enough? Do I really understand the industry? Do I know what the competition looks like? Is there a lot of competition? Is there no competition? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the competition? What is my market? Who are my clients going to look like?”

We describe them in as much detail as possible. How many of them are there? What makes them buy? All those types of things.

Then, you look at “Okay, now I understand my market. I know how big it is. Now, financially, what does that look like? What are the startup costs that are going to be involved in this? What are the fixed expenses; salaries? What does my sales forecast look like? How many am I going to sell? How many do I need to sell?”

As I mentioned earlier, I always ask clients when they come in, “What’s your goal? How much money do you want to make? How much money do you need to make out of this business, to replace what it is you’re doing right now?” Once we know that number, let’s work and see, will this business idea support that?

So, a business plan helps with all of those things. It helps you focus your ideas. It helps you organize your thoughts. Ultimately, it provides a very good feasibility study, to determine whether this particular idea is a good one for that individual.

Mark S: I feel like you just read off 20 of the titles of our last 50 podcasts!

Marc V: It’s interesting, because we just did a monogramming webinar recently. So, if the small business owner is looking to get a home-based custom monogramming business, they might not necessarily need, at all, a formal business plan. However, it is a good idea to go through the exercise, as Bill said, and determine “Okay. Who am I going to sell to? How long is it going to take? What am I going to do?”

Mark S: “What does my market look like?”

Marc V: “What does my market look like? How much money do I need to make?” And go and write some of these things down. It’s not like you have a form, with a formal business plan that’s 18 pages.

Mark S: You don’t need a cover page and a binder.

Marc V: No, but you answer the basic questions for yourself, and you write down some goals. However, if your goal is to have 20 machines, and you’re going to buy all of those up front, -.

Mark S: You’d better have a business plan!

Marc V: Yeah, you should have a plan. If you’re investing all of that money, you should have it very detailed. So, there’s levels of all of this. But going through the exercise, whether it turns into a formal business plan or not, is always valuable.

Mark S: Yeah. I actually used Business Plan Builder software a couple of times. What I found was that doing that kind of thing is a great way to vet ideas.

Bill: Absolutely.

Mark S: You actually go through, and you’re doing the research. “Okay, I’ve got to fill out the competition section.” That physically makes you sit down and take a look. “Is Café Press really my competition? Do I care if the screen printer down the street sells shirts for $8?” Maybe you do and maybe you don’t. You can narrow that down, and decide.

That will determine your pricing strategy and everything. So, that’s good.

Marc V: There can be a small boutique opened up a quarter mile from a Walmart. However, who they’re selling to and what they’re selling is completely different. They both sell t-shirts, except the boutique’s t-shirts are $35, and Walmart’s are $4. But it’s completely different. So, that’s part of that exercise, is figuring that out. What competition matters?

Mark S: Bill, do you guys offer any templates or anything for people to use, to do a business plan?

Bill: Absolutely. I was going to mention that. We do have a lot of resources available, again, at no cost to the clients. A business plan, we have templates. We have checklists that they can use which, essentially, if they go down and answer the questions on the checklist, they’ll have what they need to then write a business plan.

We also offer – I haven’t mentioned this, but we offer training classes on various topics. One of those, of course, is a business planning class, where they can learn in a little bit more detail, if they need that formal business plan, certainly how to prepare that. Even if they just need to understand the thought process and the research that needs to go into a business plan, they can get that out of the class, as well.

So, by all means. Any of those resources that we offer would be available on our website, which is SBDCTampaBay.org. And if not in our area, again, the SBDCs anywhere they happen to be in the country, will have similar type resources available on their web pages.

Mark S: That’s great. Now, I’m going to ask you a leading question, because I’m sure it’s going to move over into the financing section. When do you actually have to have a formal business plan?

Marc V: Well, certainly if you were going to try to seek funding through an SBA-guaranteed loan. That is still a requirement of an SBA-guaranteed loan, is a formal business plan. A lot of the banks that we’ve talked to recently are, I’ll say softening on the requirement to have a formal business plan.

What they’re requiring instead would be something similar to what you would think of as the Executive Summary that appears in a business plan. It might be two or three pages. It kind of summarizes what the activity is, who the principals are, what the financial results are that are expected, and what the need is, and how the money is going to be used.

So, a lot of the banks are, if it’s going to be an internally financed loan – in other words, not through the SBA – then they don’t necessarily require that formal business plan anymore.

In terms of financing in general, I would say that if the business is a startup, which probably most of what we’re talking about here, – I’m assuming most of the folks you work with are startup type businesses – the traditional financing is a little more difficult to get for startups, than it would be for a business that has been, say, functioning for five years, has five years’ worth of history, five years’ worth of tax returns, and positive results, and that type of thing.

Banks are more likely to lend to those types of companies than they are somebody who is just starting up, because of the risk factor. You know, the banks realize that there’s a higher rate of failure for startups, and they tend to be risk-averse. So, it’s a little harder to get that financing.

Having said that, the things that the banks are going to look at, generally; obviously, they want to know how much do you need, and what do you plan to use it for. They want to see that you have collateral which supports the loan.

Mark S: Which is a house, home equity, or a car.

Bill: Yeah. It could be both business and personal assets, or a combination thereof. In your case, where you’re helping individuals get set up with equipment and whatnot, that business equipment that they need to get started, can be part of the collateral that supports the loan. It’s a physical asset that has value.

But in a lot of cases, there is not sufficient business assets to support the financing need. So, the banks will ask you about personal assets that you have. Certainly, you mentioned a house. They will ask you if you would be willing to put up your house as collateral. You don’t have to do that. They can’t force you to do that, but they will ask you to do that. And if you’re willing, they’ll have you essentially pledge that as collateral, to support that loan.

And there are other personal assets, right down to vehicles and bank accounts, and things like that; stocks and so forth, that could potentially be considered collateral, as well. So, they’re going to want to look at that.

They’re going to look at how does the business cash flow. What do your projections look like, to show that cash flows positively? That’s a must. I have clients come in occasionally, who have put together forecasts, and we get to looking at the cash flow, and it’s got negative cash flow for the first year. I tell them “You know what? Do not take this to the bank, until we figure this out,” because they do not like negative cash flow.

So, they want positive cash flow, which shows that you can pay back the loan, and have some reserves. They recognize that you have personal bills to pay, as well, so they like to have a little factor built in, so that not only will they get paid, but that the individual can get paid, as well.

The last thing they look at is character. Character kind of encompasses a lot of things. Part of that is, of course, the credit score, the credit history of the individual. A lot of folks come in the first time, and they are under the impression that since it’s a business loan, it’s the business that’s getting the loan, when in reality, you’re a startup, so the bank is looking at you, personally.

They’re loaning the money to you, not so much the business. So, they want to know that you have a good credit history, and that you have some sort of capabilities, either industry knowledge or management knowledge, so that you personally would be a good risk. If you are opening a t-shirt type business, and you’ve run other businesses before, either as an owner or as a manager in a business, well, that certainly is going to be helpful.

Or if you have industry experience, where you worked for a t-shirt manufacturer, not necessarily in management, but you understand the industry, that’s going to be helpful to build your case, as well.

Mark S: That makes sense. If you’re going to open up a retail cap store or a kiosk in the mall, and you’re going for a loan for $25,000 to get it all outfitted, the bank is naturally going to ask you the questions, “Have you ever worked in retail before? What does that look like? Have you ever run a business before, and what does that look like? Do you know how to handle cash? Can you show me some experience that shows that?”

Marc V: Yeah. Or “I managed a kiosk cap store for ten years, and I’m ready to own my own.”

Bill: Right.

Marc V: I have another question that I think is part of a big fear of why people probably don’t go to your organization. Don’t people come and ask a lot of really stupid questions?

Bill: Well, I’m the one who will always say, and I know it’s cliché, but there really is no such thing as a stupid question. The only stupid question is the one that doesn’t get asked. Because if you don’t ask the question, how are you going to get the answer?

Marc V: That’s exactly kind of what I was going for, with it, because I knew you were going to say something along those lines. That’s what it is, is that people are so afraid of going and asking a basic question, because they fear that they’re going to look like a fool, going to you and wasting your time with such a stupid question. When really, it’s a basic question you’ve probably been asked 500 times.

Mark S: Yeah. I just want to say, so everybody understands, because the monogramming business is on my mind, because we just finished the webinar – everybody understands that maybe you are a stay-at-home mom that’s been doing embroidery for friends and family, from your house, for five or ten years. That you have never run a business before, or financed a business, or had to do government paperwork before.

So, you can ask those questions, and not worry about anybody judging you for what you know and don’t know.

Marc V: Yeah. It’s really just that. I don’t think there’s also anything wrong when – because people do it all of the time, on the phone with us – and I like it when they say it. People just say “I feel like this question I’m going to ask is stupid.” I actually think that’s great, that people say that, because they’re admitting that “I’m kind of scared to ask this question.” This way, I can come back with hopefully a light response, that makes them feel better.

I think they should do the same with these organizations. Just say “I feel a little uncomfortable with some of these questions, because I feel like I should know this already.” I’m sure somebody like Bill is going to come back and say “It’s perfectly normal that you don’t know that. Let me show you.”

Bill: Absolutely. What I generally tell them is that’s what we’re here for. That’s our charter. That’s what we get paid to do, is to help you through this process, whatever that means, whatever that takes.

Mark S: That’s awesome.

Bill: I wanted to kind of just make that point.

Mark S: We’ve talked a lot about startups and those initial questions, and that does represent a lot of people that listen to our podcast. But we’ve also got this whole other set, that maybe they’ve been doing custom bling t-shirts for two or three years, or they’re actually what I would call mid-sized shops.

They’re bringing in enough money to support themselves, and they’re ready to take the next step, and that’s either going retail and getting a new shop, or adding serious equipment. Maybe they’ve started out in about the $5,000 range, with what they’ve invested, have built up some money. Now, they’re ready to go to the $50,000 or $75,000, and grow into a bigger company.

Is there a separate set of resources, or a different set of resources that you guys offer, or a conversation that you have differently, with people that are already in the business?

Bill: It certainly is going to be a different conversation, because obviously, they’ve gone through all of the initial startup type activities. But there is some crossover. The whole financing question has to be answered, which again, part of the business planning process may be invoked in that situation. We’re going to try to help them work through what are the best alternatives for what it is you want to do, both in terms of maybe equipment selection or location selection.

Let’s say they’re looking at a retail setup, a brick and mortar setup. We would try to help them understand what they need to be looking at, in terms of evaluating those locations, both in terms of the market support and the financial aspects of that – what it’s going to cost. So yeah, absolutely.

When it comes to financing, we even go so far as to work with them as they work with the banks, to talk to the banks and maybe intercede on their behalf, at certain points, to get issues resolved. A lot of times, what I’ll do when somebody comes in in that situation, is to ask them if it’s okay. Because everything we talk about with the clients is confidential. We don’t share their information with anybody outside of the SBDC, without their permission.

So, I may ask them “Hey, would you mind if I talk to a couple of our banking resources, to go through your situation with them, and see if this is something that they think is feasible, that we can get it done?”

There’s a tremendous amount of resources that, as I said earlier, that we can apply to the situation, from startup all the way through exit, and everything in between.

Mark S: That’s awesome. This is all funded on the state or federal level?

Bill: Our funding comes from several different sources. As I mentioned earlier, we do get some funding from the Small Business Administration. We also get some funding from the state of Florida. We get some funding from USF, because they are our local partner.

And then, we also raise some of our own funds, through private resources. In order to get the level of funding we need, to provide the resources that we provide, we do have to generate some of our own funding, as well. So, it’s kind of a conglomeration of a lot of different sources, that end up making up our budget.

Mark S: Really, I can think of few better investments for tax dollars, than providing this kind of support.

Marc V: I think that, for me, the big takeaway I get from this, and the takeaway I hope people get from this, is whether you have been in business for years, or you haven’t even started yet, you should check out what your local organization has to offer you, whether it’s a little brief consulting meeting on some questions you’re not sure where to go, or if you take a class that they offer, or you take advantage of some sort of partnership they have with another organization like a University or something, where you can take a class.

Go and learn something new, even if you think you’re the best at everything. If they offer a short business finance course, take it. You’re going to learn something new, and you’re going to do something better for your business.

Mark S: Honestly, I disagree. I think there’s only two times when you should take advantage of something like this. One is if you have a problem and you need some help solving it. And two is if you have no problems and everything is going well, and you want to see how you can do better. I think those are the only two times.

Marc V: Sounds perfect to me!

Mark S: Alright. Bill, I’ll tell you what. As we close up here, would you just run through where people in our area can find your organization locally, and where our customers all over the country can get in touch with the SBDC?

Bill: Locally here, I would say a couple of different things. They can go to SBDCTampaBay.com. That’s our website. There’s all sorts of resources there. If they would like to actually come in for a consulting session, they can register to do that, right on the website. They can also call us. Our telephone number is 813-905-5800.

If they’re not in our region, they can just Google “SBCD,” and they can type whatever geographic region they happen to be in; “SBDC Florida,” “SBDC Georgia,” “SBDC Austin Texas,” and the specific local resource will come up right up at the top of the page. They just click on that, and get all of the information they need, to make contact with those individual offices.

Mark S: Cool! I just wanted to make sure that everybody got those letters. It’s “SBDC.” Bill, this could be in the running, and we should run this contest, for one of the most useful podcasts that we’ve ever done.

Marc V: We’ve had a lot of good rambling ones.

Mark S: Well, good and rambling, I’m not sure.

Marc V: Bill, I appreciate you coming on here and sharing this information with people, because it’s what you do every day, and too many people don’t even realize that you’re there to help them. I think it’s fantastic that a lot more people are going to realize either you personally, or somebody just like you in their areas, can do this.

Bill: Absolutely. It’s been my pleasure to be a part of your podcast.

Mark S: Thanks, Bill! Have a good day!

Everybody, this has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc V: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.

Mark S: Have a good business!

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