Business development key to our community

Guest post by Laura DiSano, the co-director of the USC Aiken Small Business Development Center and a member of the Mill on Park Advisory Council.

What does a seamstress, an inventor of spices, an individual with a patent pending on a device for caring for homebound elderly and disabled, a fashion designer, a scientific consultant or a biopharmaceutical company have in common? They are all clients of the Small Business Development Center at USC Aiken.

For 20 years, the Center, which has been hosted on the USC Aiken campus, and recently established an additional office at “The Mill on Park” as a new, collaborative business community – has provided expert business consulting at no charge to existing and emerging entrepreneurs.

The Mill on Park, USC Aiken and the Small Business Development Center have entered a formal collaboration to support economic development through servicing small business clients in our community.

The mission of the Small Business Development Centers, a network that spans the state of South Carolina and the nation, is “to advance South Carolina’s economic development by helping entrepreneurs grow successful businesses.”

The centers are hosted by universities and colleges and work closely with their communities, economic development partners, Chambers of Commerce and local governments, and are recognized as “the gateway and proven provider of small business assistance driving entrepreneurial growth and success.”

The services provided by each Small Business Development Center include: business planning, marketing and social media, financial planning and budget development, preparing clients for seeking financing through traditional and nontraditional sources, assisting in buying/selling a business, procurement opportunities and franchise opportunities. The Small Business Development Center also offers a variety of seminars in such areas as IRS tax workshops, QuickBooks, business research and education on U.S. Small Business Administration programs. We work with every type of prospective business owner – women, men, veterans, minorities and those with disabilities. The Center’s clients number in the thousands and span every ethnicity, economic background and religious affiliation.

Our goal is to serve all citizens of our community and we are supported by federal funds, matched by funds provided by the State legislature and county governments. In addition, the university provides Small Business Development Center office space and support services.

In 2013, the South Carolina Small Business Development Center network helped clients to create or save 1,059 jobs, as well as $41 million in Capital formation, $26.4 billion in government contract awards and 121 new business startups and served 4720 small businesses and individuals. In Aiken, the Small Business Development Center worked with 120 clients, provided close to 700 hours of one on- one counseling, helped to create 26 new jobs and 4 new business starts and offered multiple workshops to hundreds of citizens. For every dollar invested in the South Carolina Small Business Development Center, $10.15 is returned to the public in state taxes. In April 2014, the USC Aiken center received two prestigious awards.

The Small Business Administration District Office of South Carolina selected them as the “Center for Excellence and Innovation” for all of South Carolina. In addition, we were named as the Small Business Development Center of Excellence by the Small Business Development Center Statewide Leadership Group. We have recently launched, in conjunction with the USC Aiken School of Business, the first Innovative entrepreneurs’ forum to cultivate the development of innovative businesses with a regional, national or global reach.

Sponsored by the Aiken Chamber, this is a key city goal recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission to foster new and innovative small businesses and secure Aiken’s economic future.

If you currently own or are contemplating establishing a small business, please call at 803-641-3646 or email [email protected]. We look forward to continuing to support the economic development goals of Aiken through serving our small business community.