The center also assists existing small businesses with retention and expansion. For Woolridge, the idea was to get business owners in the community to think big. Attendees have been awarded a number of contracts. Shortly after being granted certification, a participant who owned a 10-year-old construction supply company was given the opportunity to become a supplier of cement for a $10million roadway construction project. “The community may be changing. Why not look into doing business with the county? It’s not going anywhere,â€ jokes Woolridge.
It doesn’t hurt to ask. The mission of a public library is to serve the needs of the community. If your library doesn’t have a business resource center, Woolridge suggests asking a librarian if the library would consider opening one. If the answer is no, ask if the library calendar of events can include a small business workshop or seminar.
Tap into the power of 411. Even if you don’t have a county government contact you can submit bids to, you can still navigate your way around with the help of the operator.
Make a campus connection. If your library is not willing to open a small business center, don’t give up. State-funded colleges and universities often have their own centers, which are usually open to the public. Sometimes, their resources are more extensive with free one-on-one counseling.
Reach out to local and national organizations. Finding a mentor will make the journey a lot easier. SCORE is a nonprofit that pairs small business owners with working and retired executives from the same field. Visit www.score.org for more information.
This story originally appeared in the November 2008 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.