MILLEDGEVILLE — The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides free one-on-one, confidential business consulting for existing and start-up business owners. Middle Georgia’s 19-county outreach includes Baldwin County.
As part of UGA’s Public Service and Outreach division, the SBDC is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the State of Georgia.
Business consultant Lisa Perry works out of Middle Georgia’s Macon office but spends time at Milledgeville’s Digital Bridges weekly. Perry is available on Wednesday’s or other times by appointment.
The SBDC gels well with Digital Bridges non-profit outreach goals.
“I can do everything here that I can do in my Macon office,” Perry said. “Our mission is to educate small business owners. We want them to stay in business and be profitable.”
The small business helper offers expertise to help clients develop business plans, identify sources of capital, analyze financial records, conduct market research and operational diagnostic assessments. Perry’s human resources background provides hiring advice as well.
Industry information and target market demographics can give clients an edge.
“We have access to research that small businesses don’t have access to,” she said.
The SBDC walks consult clients through the lending process, which isn’t easy. Misnomers about government start-up funds must be clarified.
“You have to have good credit and a plan together. There are few grant opportunities for small businesses,” Perry said. “That’s one big misconception. They are few and far between.”
At least 75 percent of small businesses taking advantage of the free services are established. Perry said some clients have worked with her for seven years.
Business health checks make sure progressive growth continues.
“Even if you’re in business, you need to set your goals high every year,” the local consultant said.
While ultimately the client holds decision-making power, the brainstorming advice delivers non-partisan direction.
“Sometimes your plan might not be working,” Perry said. “You can’t be so tied to it that you aren’t willing to reroute or make changes.”
Assisting start-up entrepreneurs requires extensive planning. The SBDC has the tools to help newcomers develop a solid business outlook.
Creating realistic financial projections for sales and expenses keeps the ball rolling.
“I want them to know the break even point. I like people to know their numbers. A lot of times that’s one aspect they don’t look at,” Perry said.
The SBDC doesn’t want to be an emergency room, instead preferring the long-term partnership approach helping small businesses remain on track.
Perry routinely works with different lenders, local Chamber of Commerce offices and economic development entities. Those relationships are advantageous to the initiative and client success.
A continuing education component offers supplementary help. This quarter’s three-hour “Starting a Business” class on Tuesday, April 9 costs $69.
The session finds out if entrepreneurship is right for you.
Overall, Perry enjoys her role in the local economy. Statewide SBDC client statistics over the last five years show that businesses working with SBDC experience a median annual sales growth of nearly 14 percent and obtained more than $263 million in start-up and expansion capital.
“I’m an outside party that can make recommendations and help you figure out your action plan to address whatever situation you are trying to address,” she said.