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20 Highlights of the Southland SBDC Conference



The sound of clicking heels and eager chatter filled the air as people entered Prairie State College to attend a conference that highlighted small businesses.

Friday, Nov. 9, marked the first Southland Small Business Development Center conference. Designed specifically with small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in mind, the event gave special attention to the tips and tricks needed to establish a successful business.

The conference featured highly successful entrepreneurs, which included: Dr. Kenneth Lewis, Sr., owner of Kenny’s Ribs & Chicken, Dusties Buffets, and KLS Accelerator, Michele Hoskins owner of Michele Foods, Shon Harris of LiveWire Construction, and WDB Marketing’s very own, Keeana Barber and James Wheeler. Other notable business professionals, financial aides, government affiliates and media professionals served also served as panelists.

Each session highlighted different aspects of business entrepreneurship, from conquering your fears to getting your business in order, or how to expand your business to understanding business loans, and of course branding, marketing, and using social media.

The panelists and moderators shared an immense amount of knowledge with the conference attendees, so of course, What’s Da Bizniz wanted to be able to share some of the takeaways with our readers.

Conquering Your Fears
One thing many budding entrepreneurs have in common is fear. Fear of failure, fear of losing money, fear of rejection, and the list goes on, but for the first session of the day, the esteemed panelists shared tips on how to conquer those fears.

Embrace the “no’s”
No one wants to be rejected, especially when it comes to their business. Rejection can often lead to discouragement, but instead of seeing the negatives in those ‘no’s you can learn to embrace them. By embracing the ‘no’s’ you are keeping your self stable and getting ready for the next step. A rejection should not deter you from doing what you have set out to do, it should simply make you want to keep going and get better, despite the opinions of others.

Believe in yourself
You hear it all the time, “believe in yourself.” You might hear it so much that it can often sound like a cliche, but believing in yourself is the most important thing you can do to have a successful business. By believing in yourself, you are creating a strong foundation for your business. When things get tough, you will have faith and confidence in yourself that will keep you from being discouraged.

Many businesses have become successful because of their collaboration with different businesses. By collaborating with other businesses, you not only help yourself, but you also help others. WDB Marketing’s own Keeana Barber noted, “When you empower others, our greatest gifts come back,” Barber said. When helping others, you will learn about yourself and your business in more ways than you can think of.

Getting Your Business In Order
Now that you have created your business, it is time to get your business in order. The second panel of the SBDC conference shared valuable information on what getting your business in order entails

When you start a business, you have to be aware of the liabilities you are now responsible for and how to insure them. For a business, there are multiple types of insurance to consider from property insurance to worker’s compensation insurance to professional liability insurance, and the list goes on and on. Your job as a business owner is to discover all the different insurance types you will need because without it, you could potentially risk negatively affecting your company.

Create a business plan
A business plan is a document that outlines what you want to accomplish with your business and how you plan to do it. It is important to create a business plan because it helps you become prepared. Initially, it will serve as a template for your business, but it has the potential to become the recipe for your success.

Devote time for yourself
Although it is important to work hard, it is equally important to take time out for yourself. Many people forget this step when it comes to their business, but by setting time aside to recharge, you can avoid burnout and the stress that comes with constantly running a business.

Where’s The Money?
So you’ve conquered your fears, got your business in order, but wait where’s the money? The question of, “Where’s the money” follows aspiring entrepreneurs daily. Without financial capital, there is a very slim chance for a business to prosper. It was the mission of the fourth panel to discuss with small business owners in the audience that money for their business is available and there are ways to find it.

Develop a relationship with a small business banker
By fostering a relationship with a small business banker, you are creating a powerful dynamic where the bank will want to give you loans. As the moderator, Christyn Freemon of Project Forward, pointed out, there are certain questions you need to ask yourself about the bank you are hoping to obtain a loan from, “Is the bank going to be there to grow with your business? Does the bank care about your business and do you have access to someone who can answer your questions.” These questions will help you identify if you are with the right banking institution that will do its best to serve you and your business.

Take advantage of the coaching resources from lenders.
Many lenders offer financial coaching resources at their facilities. By taking advantage of these resources, you are taking that next step in learning how to secure money for your business. The coaches will educate you on the types of loans you should get and how to make it all useful for your business.

Talk to financial counselors
If you are a person who wants to start a business, then financial counselors should become your best friends. Taking advantage of their services is a great way to ensure that you know what you are getting yourself into when it comes to borrowing money.

Be passionate
During the panel discussion, Isaiah Spears of Accion Chicago, a nonprofit community lender, explained that lenders look at your business history before applying for a loan. They want to know that they are giving money to someone passionate and consistent with what they want to do, businesswise. “If you come to us with an idea, we want to know that you have the drive behind that idea,” Spears said.

Enter with a plan for your business loan
“The worst thing you can do is just wander into a bank and ask for a loan,” Erica Dombey, President & Executive Director of Regional Development Company, said. When you enter a bank, a plan for what you are going to use the loan for is typically preferred. It helps the lender know the goals for your business, the amount of money you will need, and how you will pay off the loan.

How To Expand Your Business
So, you want to expand your business. Maybe you want to go from local to statewide or nationally to internationally. Whatever the case may be, the third panel for the SBDC conference was able to hash out useful advice that has the potential to lead companies in the right direction when it comes to expanding one’s company.

Branding, Marketing and Using Social Media
For whatever business you may have, you will have to brand it, market it, and in the current age of technology, you will have to use social media as a means of advertising. Media professionals, including WDB Marketing’s Keeana Barber and James Wheeler, served as panelists, where they discussed in-depth on the ways of branding and marketing.

Branding is your logo, the colors you use, the type of service you give, and the treatment of your customers. It is essentially what your potential customers know you for.

Be consistent
When advertising your business, consistency is key. By constantly promoting your business you are not giving potential consumers the opportunity to forget about your business. Constant promotion allows consumers to be aware of your business when it counts.

The importance of a marketing plan
A marketing plan serves as a way to measure how you will advertise and market your business. It is important to focus on the marketing plan because it will keep you and your business on track and keep a record of the change within your business.

Pay attention to the metrics
A way to discover if your marketing is working is to measure your metrics. Measuring your metrics is important because it shows how people discovered your company. A good way to measure this is by simply asking your consumers how they found out about your products. It gives you a clear understanding of the type of marketing that is working and what is not working.

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