I don't think most people know the Small Business Development Center is here. What do you do?
You're right, most people don't realize we're here, and we're trying to change that, but we do get hundreds of calls every year. We're located in the Youngstown Business Incubator, and we provide business consulting services and training for existing and new businesses. Entrepreneur is a word that we use every day.
What do you see more of, business start-ups or existing businesses that want to grow?
Until recently, it's been the start-ups, but now it's starting to reverse a little bit. We're seeing more small- to midsize existing businesses.
Do you charge for your services?
Our consulting service is free. Once in a while we pass on the cost of services that take a lot of extra time, such as market research.
So how do you pay your bills?
The Small Business Development Center is really a national program, a partnership with the federal Small Business Administration and, in Ohio, with the Department of Development. Here we're hosted by Youngstown State University -- the university pays our rent and some of our other expenses. We also have an office at Warren Redevelopment and Planning in Warren, and we have one in Jefferson to cover Ashtabula.
If you had to pick a particular field for a new business, what do you think would be most likely to succeed right now?
We get that question a lot, but it's something we can't answer. We need people to do some research and find out exactly what they want to do.
Sometimes our family and friends, while they can be well-meaning, can encourage us to do something that might not be realistic. They'll say: "Oh, you're a great cook!" but a great hobby doesn't always make a viable business. Friends and family are dear and wonderful, but they're not always the best people to go to for advice.
What's the biggest mistake a new business owner can make?
Not planning. Not doing their homework. Sometimes we get a little too emotionally attached to what we think is going to be a good idea without pulling back to look at it objectively and seeking the advice of people who can help us do that. Another thing we see is people getting in trouble with cash. They don't have enough cash, or they don't know how to manage their business.
Do you see more business successes, or more failures?
Successes, definitely. And actually, we feel we've helped people if they come to the conclusion that they should not be going into a business or buying a business or expanding a business, that it's not the right thing for them. If we've saved them from wasting their money, we feel that's a success too.
Do people get angry when you tell them that an idea is not going to work?
We don't really come out and tell them that. We help them do the calculations, look at the market, look at the financial information available on the business. It needs to be a conclusion that they come to themselves.
Unfortunately, people sometimes call us when it is too late. They've spent a lot of money to get a patent or they've taken out a home equity loan to start a business without seeking any advice, and then they get in trouble. Sometimes it's heartbreaking. That's why we like to see people in the beginning stages.
Talking to entrepreneurs everyday, do you ever dream of starting your own business?
Oh, I think my husband is the entrepreneur of the family. He's a photographer and owns Memory Lane Photography in Liberty. But who knows where life is going to lead us.
Do you have a special goal, something you'd like to accomplish either personally or professionally?
Oh, yes; I'd love to see more youth entrepreneur programs in this area. We need to get our children to think about what it's like to own your own business, that everybody doesn't have to go work for somebody else.
Where would you go, if you could take a vacation anywhere in the world?
I'd like to go to Prince Edward Island in the Nova Scotia area.
Do you have a favorite restaurant?
There are so many good ones in the area, I don't really have a favorite, but I prefer Italian and those that are locally owned. I don't like chain restaurants.
What if you could have lunch with anybody, alive or dead. Who would you pick?