Small Business Development Center

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Small Business Development Center

Angela Labertew dreamed of one day opening her own boutique shop but didn’t know all the necessary steps to take.

She went to the Small Business Development Center at Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) in Bloomington and received not only the help she needed, but also the support.

“I don’t know if I’d have done it without that support,” she said. “They supported me all the way. It was invaluable.”

The SBDC also provided her with the information she needed to start a business.

“They gave me a checklist of items that needed to be done,” she said. “I wanted to do things correctly and they gave me the confidence to know I was.”

Her business, Lavender & Lili, is open and running in the McLean County community of Lexington.

Labertew is one of 281 clients served by the Small Business Development Center since it opened less than two years ago.

The center provides free services to McLean County entrepreneurs with a business idea or small businesses looking to expand.

“We provide an array of services including business planning,” said Director Karen Bussone. “We provide a business plan to all clients. It’s extremely important to plan. The more planning, the greater likelihood of succeeding.”

The center also offers financial statement analysis; helps with marketing; provides support for those wanting to export goods; and helps with government contracts.

Beginning in the spring of 2019, Bussone said the center will have additional help from interns, one who will focus on marketing research for clients; another focusing on website development and social media connections.

“We’re very strong with marketing, financial statement analysis and human resources,” she said.

If clients need the expertise of lawyers, certified public accountants, bankers or “any service you can imagine,” Bussone said the center has partnered with more than 100 resources and can link the client to them. Clients pay for those services.

The Small Business Development Center also has partnered with IWU and Illinois State University to allow students at those higher education platforms to partner with clients.

“The client gets the service for free and the student gets insight,” Bussone said.

A partnership with Normal-based Heartland Community College links SBDC clients with Heartland Continuing Education courses, such as Quicken Books or grant writing.

Bussone said the center also has monthly seminars that are open to the public. Experts share their knowledge on such topics as cyber security, theft, tax law, intellectual property, patents, estate planning and social media.

“The idea (behind the center) is to help grow the economy in McLean County,” Bussone said.

Clients receiving the center’s services are required to start their business in McLean County. Bussone said in 2018, SBDC clients contributed more than $4 million in economic growth. ●