Say what you want, but you would have a hard time convincing me that Bryan County is not built on small business owners. They are the backbone of this community’s economy. These are people we know, live next door to, participate in civic actives with and hopefully support when our needs match with their products and services.
The obstacles faced by small business appear before the first sale takes place. In fact, it happens when the idea first forms. A prospective entrepreneur hatches an idea, refines the action steps and decides to open a new business. Then the process gets sticky.
Few of us know anything about opening a business if we have never done it before. Cindy Gernatt moved Cindy’s Custom Framing from a home based business to a store front in 2006. While her business idea was solid, she struggled with educating herself on business license procedures, general requirements and even getting the water turned on. She relied on the kindness of other business owners. She credits community organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Women’s Business Alliance with helping her successfully find her way from her garage to open shop doors.
Cindy’s story isn’t unique. These are frequently asked questions in the area of business birth. However, Bryan County has done its part in helping to make this process easier. Back in July, Bryan County became the 51st of Georgia’s 159 counties to earn the state’s Entrepreneurial Friendly designation. They did it quick. Four months start to finish, Bryan County finished ahead of Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty County. This sense of urgency is a testament to the importance of small business to this community.
The immediate product of the project is the "Business Bryan" resource guide. Available at the Chamber office and online, this 50 page workbook covers topics ranging from business plans to business licensing and marketing strategies to employee concerns. It is structured to take a person from the beginning questions to the in depth topics of running a business. While it is not held up to be legal or professional advice, it is a mighty fine start in the right direction.
However, the designation is more than a checked off goal and a comprehensive workbook. It is a gateway to grant money available only to Entrepreneurial Friendly communities. Later this month, the Chamber will host a meeting with Mary Ellen McClanahan, Director of the Governor’s Entrepreneur & Small Business Office. This meeting will help educate the 2008 Business Bryan Committee, chaired by Jerry Deloach, understand what money is available and the procedures required to obtain it.
The only problem with the initiative is that it doesn’t work if the people in the community don’t know about it and utilize it. To date, I have been unable to find one small business or aspiring entrepreneur that has utilized this resource in part or as a whole. It seems like a program of this nature would be a widely used and talked about resource.
If you have experience with Business Bryan, I would love to hear about it. If you are looking for more information on the state’s Entrepreneurial Friendly Initiative, you can find it in the business section of www.georgia.org. The Business Bryan workbook is available in its entirety on the Chamber website at www.bryancoga.org.