As the new director of the Small Business Development Center based at Western State, Laverty said her mission is to help established small businesses grow stronger. A division of the Small Business Administration, Laverty said SBDC has a stable of experts ready to give advice to qualifying businesses, whether it’s getting a loan, learning more efficient operations or how to handle employees.
Take Mouse’s Chocolates in Ouray, for example. Heidi Kremeier and John Weihart bought the already established business about a year ago, but some of their plans weren’t solidified until they sought the advice of Mariah Kornberg, one of SBDC’s experts.
Kornberg has a background in business development, primarily in growth and expansion, and said she learned about SBCD’s program recently at an economic summit in Silverton and volunteered her services to the chocolate store.
Kremeier couldn’t be happier with the arrangement.
“It would be difficult to put to words all that she has done,” she said. “We have a vision for our business and a sense about our own business savvy, but can’t always take our vision and put it into realized, solid, written down form.”
Kremeier helped with writing the chocolate store’s business plan and gave the couple advice about solidifying their dream.
“I am the brainstormer and John is the one who gets it done,” Kremeier said. “Mariah helped us meet in the middle. She has helped me wrap my brain around all my ideas and help them become real. There is a lot to manage between an idea and a ringing cash register!”
Laverty, who can be reached at 970/943-3157, said her goal is to create more jobs on the Western Slope by giving small businesses the tools they need to succeed.
“What we really do is help existing businesses thrive and help them grow,” she said. “We can help them do process efficiency so they can optimize their time and resources so they can stay in business.”
Small businesses often run into trouble when they apply for loans, and if the loan application isn’t handled properly, businesses can be turned down, hurting their bottom line.
That’s where the SBDC comes in with more expert help.
“We can help get loan packages together so when they present it to the banker everything is in order, including how profits will repay the loans,” said Laverty.
By consulting with one of SBDC’s loan experts, business owners can have all their questions answered before going to a bank. The agency also taps into experts who know how to handle challenging personnel or staffing issues, how do achieve “lean” manufacturing and cut costs.
“These are really cool things to know,” Laverty said. “Toyota knows how to produce cars at a much cheaper price than General Motors, and those principles apply.”
Although based in Gunnison, Laverty said the consulting services are available to business in Region 10, comprised of Gunnison, Montrose, Delta, San Miguel, Ouray, and Hinsdale counties.
Laverty’s agency can also help businesses write grants, and more.
“We have a loan officer who helps with information about funding and experts who do cash flow projections and answer financial questions,” she said. “We have marketing experts, business duplication experts that can, for example, take a retail store that’s successful in Telluride, and expand to other locations.”
Most small business owners work long, hard hours, but Laverty said her expert counselors can help them learn to delegate so they don’t burn out.
“They learn every step they need to take to promote a business so they have more time,” she said. “Everything can be automated and delegated, systematized by experts on how to do that so they can take more time off. We turn everything into a step-by-step process, and then they can hire other people they can afford and learn to delegate.”
Even if business is really bad, the SBDC consultant experts can help by teaching employers how to handle customers.
“They can learn to coach employees on what to say to customers and not about how bad business is,” she said. “It’s really easy to start chatting about how bad it is and who got laid off, but that’s not going to be useful for your business.”
About a dozen business experts are volunteering their time to help with SBDC’s new direction, Laverty said, and there’s room for more. She encourages people with business expertise to give some of their time to help others.
“We want to grow this network,” she said. “We want more jobs created in Region 10 than ever before.”