If you are thinking about starting or expanding a small business in South Carolina you need to talk to Allen Brown and the folks at the South Carolina Small Business Development Center (SCSBDC). This is especially vital if you have no experience starting a small business in South Carolina. The SCSBDC provides free one-on-one counseling sessions to make your start-up a successful one. In addition, they also conduct training events, many of which are also free. I had a chance to sit down with Allen Brown to discuss the SCSBDC and his experiences in small business and helping others start their businesses.
1. Could you please tell us a little bit about your small business background and how you came to be a part of the South Carolina Small Business Development Center (SCSBDC)?
I started my first business in middle school selling candy to my classmates during the school year and lick ups to my friends in the summer. I didn’t realize it at the time, I just wanted extra cash to purchase a few things a wanted. I’ve always liked math so majoring in Finance, Management Information Systems & Entrepreneurship at UofSC seemed to be a natural fit. After graduating, I completed BB&T’s (Now Truist Bank) Management Development Program and served as a Small Business Banker here in the Columbia Market. Outside of the Military, most of my professional life has been spent at the intersection of Finance & Entrepreneurship.
2. What services does the SCSBDC offer and is everything still done virtually? What services are free and which ones are not?
Wow. The simplest way to answer this question is to first direct you to our website: https://www.scsbdc.com/. When you go there you’ll see how to request counseling and register for training events/webinars and seminars. Our core services include: One -On-One No Fee Confidential Counseling, Small Business Ecosystem & Network Orientation in addition to Business and Entrepreneurial Educational Webinars and Training Events. Most of our services are free (at no cost to the client) except for the occasional webinar/seminar. A few of the major service we offer across our network are loan packaging, market research and strategic planning.
3. What is the is the most important thing to take into consideration before starting a small business?
That you have someone who is willing to purchase your product or service at a price that allows you to make enough profit to cover your expenses and put money in your pocket.
4. As a small business owner did you use a similar service when you started your business?
No. I first learned about the SBDC after joining BB&T and the product distributor whose product I sold had a training program.
5. Are there certain types of businesses to stay away from because of current supply chain issues?
You would think so. But, starting a business is about finding and exploiting an opportunity. I often say that an Opportunity is equivalent to having a viable solution for a problem a group of people are willing to pay to get rid of. Whatever, your idea may be, it makes sense to find out if it’s a real opportunity.
6. Are there places to get small business financing that don’t require perfect credit?
Yes. Most if not all Lenders look at more than credit when making loan decisions, when they review credit scores it’s typically across a range. Lenders look at credit scores to gauge a person’s character and see how well they have managed their debts. For instance,
Did they pay back the loans they have had in the past?
Can we trust them to pay us back?
How much debt do they presently have compared to their income?
They tend to look at the 5 C’s of Credit (Lending): Character, Capacity, Collateral, Capital & Conditions. All five are important, and are used to help manage risk. The lower the risk to the lender, the higher the probability of getting approved and the better the terms will be for the borrower. It’s important to remember that there’s no “One Size Fits All’ loans or financing options. The decisions are always personalized to the borrower.
7. How much money do you have to have saved up before starting a small business? Can some businesses be started on a shoestring?
It depends. Most people start their business on a shoestring, or boot strap their business. Access to capital is often a barrier and as a result, undercapitalized businesses get started everyday. It depends on whether you’re a manufacturing, selling (distributing) or service business. At the core, every business is one of these or a combination of them. You’ll need more money when you are making products than you will when you selling them or selling your services. But, Entrepreneurs don’t have to struggle with this, just ask us. We can help you figure out how much money you need to have a successful startup.
8. What is the biggest mistake people make when starting a small business?
Typically, the main reason a business fails is because it runs out of cash. So, I would say, the biggest mistake people make when starting a small business is failing to determine how much cash they need in order to stay in business. Go back to my answer for question #3.
9. What is the best way to contact you about utilizing SBDC services?
This post is part of Richland Library Business and Careers Department’s Community Partner Spotlight, which highlights a new community partner each month in order to spread the word about the services available to current and potential small business owners across the midlands. Please see our Community Partner Spotlight Display in the Business and Careers Department at Richland Library Main – Third Level. Special thanks to Allen Brown and the SCSBDC for contributing to this post.