Small Business Development Center helps area entrepreneurs make a plan

Published 12:45 am Sunday, June 28, 2009

NATCHEZ — The words business plan alone are enough to send some would-be small business owners running from what may seem like an insurmountable task.

But, in Natchez, entrepreneurs and current small business owners, don’t have go about writing a business plan on their own.

That is where the Small Business Development Center headquartered at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez comes in.

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Jeff Waller, director of the center that serves 12 counties in southwest Mississippi, said he believes the main part of his job is making sure business owners and would-be business owners are equipped to handle the business challenges they will face. And he said the first step to that is creating a plan.

“I think everyone should have to write a business plan. It is a guide to where you should be in six months or a year down the road,” Waller said. “My wife and her business partner have a small operation. They probably don’t make in a year what people make in a month, but I made her make a business plan.”

And Waller isn’t the only proponent of a business plan — the banks are too.

“The people with the money want to see a business plan,” he said. “That’s a huge reason to have one, but in my opinion isn’t the only reason.

“It is good to have a reference to look at and see how things are measuring up.”

A business plan is an overview a new business or an overview of the expansion of an existing small business. The plan identifies key aspects of the business such as product and service description, market research — who will use this product or service and how many of those people are their in the market, advertising and marketing for the business, management, facilities and property and financial requirements.

The plan, Waller said, helps business owners organize their plans into one document. He said the business plan helps to organize thoughts, plans and goals in one place.

“When you go into a bank and seek funding for your business it is invaluable to be able to reference a business plan,” Waller said. “It shows that you done the work necessary to get the operation off the ground.”

The Small Business Development Center has a formula for a writing business plans, but it is up to the business owner to put in the work.

Waller said, while he is glad to serve as a counselor, he is not in the business of writing business plans.

“It may take several sessions with me to put together an entire business plan, but it is their plan, not mine, so I’m not going to write it,” he said. “I’ll (quality control) it and work with them on it, but in the end it is their business so the plan has to be theirs as well.”

While the business plan is the first step, according to Waller, in a successful business venture, the SBDC offers services that will continue to help small business owners grow.

The center offers training in computer software and technology, IRS and other tax information, market research tools, acquiring funding and accounting and bookkeeping tools.

But the advice Waller offers isn’t always rosy, he said.

“Its our job to help businesses flourish and grow, but if someone walks in here with and idea or plan that seems unrealistic, I’ll tell them that,” he said. “I have no reason to sugar coat things. It does no one any good.”

The center also offers only advice. He said often times people think the center has money available for business owners, but Waller said he has never found any “no strings attached” funding.

“Even the money that funds us has strings attached,” he said. “We can’t give them any money, but we can help them find what they need.”

The Small Business Development Center is funded partially through an agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration and is operated through the University of Mississippi.

The Small Business Development Center can be reached by calling 601-446-1254 or by e-mail at