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There is a growing need for technical assistance to accommodate the dramatically increasing formation of business enterprises in the greater Los Angeles area. In its last fiscal year, the Los Angeles District Office (LADO) of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) financed 4,600 small businesses in the amount of $1billion. To support a capital access program of this magnitude LADO is proud to rely on a varied network of technical assistance providers, who often shepherd the individual entrepreneur through myriad obstacles related to all loan processes. Los Angeles SBA District Director, Alberto G. Alvarado confirmed the value of the Agency’s resource partners saying, “Without SCORE, the SBDCs, Women’s Business Center, and our many other important resource partners, we could not possibly serve the number of small businesses that we reach out to on an annual basis. These entities are the technical assistance work horses, through whose collaboration the SBA’s mission goals are met”.
SCORE stands for the Service Corp of Retired Executives. Its members, retired executives who have had illustrious careers with leading business organizations, volunteer their time pro bono to assist aspiring entrepreneurs and start-up business owners. Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) offer consulting, technical assistance and business training, on a gratis basis to the SBA’s constituent clientele. Both entities are funded through the SBA.
The Los Angeles District recently added a third jewel to its technical assistance crown. To specifically aid in the SBA’s initiative to foster the growth of woman owned business in the Southland, the Agency recently funded the CHARO-SBA Women’s Center. To understand how a business can benefit from an association with this new organization, witness the case of Fem Public Relations (Fem PR), a PR firm with a particular focus on the fashion industry.
Fem PR was established by Melinda Smith and Sharon Helfand to address the promotional needs of promising apparel, cosmetics, accessory, and footwear lines. The Toluca Lake based firm offers a full range of fashion oriented public relations services. If an up and coming cosmetic s business is in need of a press kit, or would like a special event planned to celebrate a new fragrance launch, then a visit with Smith and Helfand is in order. Fem PR is also expert at image consulting, as well as wardrobe and editorial placements.
In need of working capital, Fem PR initially contacted the SBA. The firm was triaged and immediately referred to the CHARO-SBA Women’s Center for evaluation and assistance. Marlyn Garcia, the LOS ANGELES PRESS OFFICE center’s business development officer (BDO), provided Melinda Smith and Sharon Helfand with a loan assessment and a detailed business evaluation. Ms. Garcia impressed upon the women entrepreneurs the importance of having a viable business plan that is founded upon realistic business assumptions as a major component of the loan package. She also counseled them on the firm’s revenues and costs and instructed the business owners on cash flow and debt service.
Through the CHARO-SBA WBC’s instruction and guidance, Fem PR successfully completed its business plan and became loan ready. Having completed this phase of the process, the company was prepared for capital access. They were helped with the loan paperwork which the WBC then processed for an SBA Express Loan.
Fem PR received its much-needed working capital. However, it also came away from the CHAROSBA Women’s Center with something extra. It seems that one of the WBC’s former clients was a maternity clothing line that planned to take its business to another level and desired public relations assistance. As a result, both entities were matched and Fem PR gained a new client in addition to a loan.
SBA District Director Alvarado voiced his praise for entrepreneurs Smith and Helfand particularly for their wisdom and initiative to seek out appropriate help stating, “They advanced their cause by researching and availing themselves of the SBA’s network of small business resources. Because they now have a known resource entity in the form of CHARO-SBA Women’s Center and an established consulting relationship with Marlyn Garcia, they have greatly improved their chances for continued success in their business endeavors.”
For additional information on Fem Public Relation Services, please contact Melinda Smith or Sharon Helfand at (818) 753-1753, or you may visit their website at www.fempr.com.
To find out more about SBA Loan, Technical Assistance and other Programs and Services visit the Agency’s user friendly web site www.sba.gov or call one of the following Economic Development Specialists at the SBA’s Los Angeles District Office:
- Sandra Buck (818) 552-3308
- Chuck Edgington (818) 552- 3241
- Barbara Madel (818) 552-3314
- Fernando Olivares (818) 552 -3256
- Juan Urbina (818) 552- 3244
To contact SCORE for a business consult, please call (818)552-3206. Additional information is available at www.score.org the SCORE web site.
David Linde and Abbie Kaplan started Salon Radius with little knowledge of how to run a business and what it takes financially to weather the first 5 years. They poured everything they had into their company, financially, mentally, and physically, working 7 days a week, to see their vision of being one of the most well known salons in San Diego come true.
Though they struggled in the beginning with cash flow issues, as well as, employee/stylist loyalty difficulties Mr. Linde and Ms. Kaplan quickly overcame these issues and have taken the beauty industry by storm. They opened Salon Radius mid-2002 and in less than a year the Salon was voted “One of the Top 22 Salons of the Year” by Salon Today Magazine for 2003. In addition, they have been featured on KUSI News Channel 9 and in Vibra Magazine.
They recently acquired their second SBA loan which has helped them to grow Salon Radius in ways they did not see possible before. This loan gave them a cash flow cushion, and enabled them to begin remodeling the Salon for new ventures in Skin Care and Retail. “The loan provides the muscle needed for increasing business through long term commitments and long term investments. Best thing we ever did,” says Linde. Salon Radius is about making sure their clients and their community is being taken care of. Making a better place for people to live and enjoy life. And…having them look their best in the process! David and Abbie are avid supporters of the City of Hope’s cause and play an active role in just about every local cause in their area.
Their best advice to other entrepreneurs is to have the financial means to go the first 5 years without making much on your investment. As well as a clear vision of what you want out of your business in the end, as well as, a clear path of what you want to achieve with your business. Their current goal is to grow another 30% annually for the next 3 years, become more involved in their community, and further their presence in the area for being one of the most well-known salons in San Diego.
In 2001, Lisa Druxman created Stroller Strides, an exercise program that she could do with her son, and at the same time, help provide a source of income without returning to work full time. Lisa taught this stroller workout program, combining power walking with a stroller and body toning exercises using the environment, exercise tubing, and a stroller. It became so popular that Stroller Strides is now the country’s largest and fastest growing fitness program for moms.
One of the largest challenges for Stroller Strides was its huge growth. They needed funding to properly support the company when it grew so quickly. Luckily they were able to acquire an SBA guaranteed loan, which provided the funding needed to get them through their transition from mom and pop company to a large franchise operation.
Through instructor and franchising opportunities, Stroller Strides has given hundreds of moms a unique and rewarding career that allows them to be with their children. Lisa also received invaluable business counseling services through SCORE: Counselors to America’s Small Business and highly recommends SCORE to all of her franchisees.