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Expanding Your Business: What You Need To Know

SBA Learning Center

SBA's Online Business Chat

A live Q&A session with small business experts. Submit your question before or during the chat discussion. You cannot submit question after Closing Remarks for the chat. No registration is needed for the web chat.

Expert: Sharon Miller
Expanding Your Business: What You Need To Know

Sharon Miller

Executive Director of the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, SBA’s Women’s Business Center San Francisco

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 6:00 PM

Sharon Miller is the Chief Executive Officer of Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, a non-profit small business development center working to transform the lives of low income women and men through entrepreneurship. Renaissance provides comprehensive small business training and support services to over 1500 Bay Area entrepreneurs each year with services in English and Spanish that include introductory, business planning and advanced training classes, individual consulting, workshops, business incubation, access to finance as well as a SBA Women’s Business Center.  Miller serves on the board of directors, as Vice Chair of CAMEO (California Association of Micro-enterprise Organizations) and the Association of Women’s Business Centers.  In 2009, Miller was named the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), San Francisco Chapter Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Small businesses growth can mean the difference between failure and success. Careful planning is not only required when starting a business, but also when considering expansion. Are you looking for answers to your small business questions about growing your business?

 

Chat participants can get answers to their questions about what crucial items should be measured before considering expansion. Miller will offer tips and advice on making the best decision for your business.

Note: There is not an audio format for the online chat, and no broadcast capability. SBA moderators retain editorial control over the online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for chat participants and hosts. Chat hosts may decline to answer questions.

Chat Transcript

From : U.S. Small Business Administration
Location : Washington , D.C.
Question :

 

Reply :
Welcome. My name is Sharon Miller and I am the CEO of the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center in San Francisco. It is exciting to be with so many wonderful entrepreneurs today. As we all know it is all of you - small business owners who are creating vital employment for themselves and others, bringing new products and services to market and creating new ways to do business. It is an honor to be here and to answer your questions.
From : YAFA
Location : SEAFORD , NEW YORK
Question :
I OWN A CLOTHING LINE FOR FEMALES AND I AM HAVING AHRD TIME GETTING PEOPLE TO BUY MY CLOTHING ANY IDEAS THAT MAY HELP MY COMPNAY BLOSSOM MORE.

 

Reply :
Hi Yafa, It is really important that you check in with your target market to see what it is they are looking for. Try gathering a small group of potential customers or speaking with them individually and showing them your product. Find out if they are looking for something other than what you are selling. Is the price right, the color the style? While your clothes may be absolutely beautiful, it is important that they appeal to your customers. Just ask - people are very willing to share their opinions with you. Best, Sharon
From : Jennifer Galvin
Location : Shakopee , MN
Question :
I am at a point where my Holistic Business is starting to take off with steady clients and repeat clients. I am in a position right now, where I do not need to pay any rental fees for space use, as friends are offering me their space to use at this time, on an as-needed basis. When do you reach a point where you know its comfortable and safe to start looking for space rental?

 

Reply :
Hi Jennifer, Free Space - as long as it meets your needs is fantastic. However having your own space will make scheduling easier for you and for your clients. Further it can help you to be better known which can result in additional clients. Since you are not in a rush, take your time, see what is available and how much your own space would cost. Once you have this info it will help you to decide your next steps. Thanks. Sharon
From : felice tamburri
Location : feasterville , pa
Question :
my buseness is rehab realestate home mustly fourclosure propertys

 

Reply :
Hi Felice, If you are an experienced contractor, there is certainly significant opportunity for rehab in the foreclosure market. Please tell me more about your specific concerns. Thanks, sharon
From : David B. Hernandez
Location : Visalia , CA
Question :
No question yet....verifying connection

 

Reply :
Hi David, Your on! Best, Sharon
From : Fred Anderson
Location : Sister Bay , Wisconsin
Question :
I am a small hotel (36 rooms) that would like to add 12-14 more rooms and refinance my existing mortgage via either the 504 or 7a loan program. Any suggestions?

 

Reply :
Hi Fred, The SBDC offers great loan packaging services. You can meet with experts for FREE and they can help you to prepare your loan and help you to determine the program that is best for your needs, please visit www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/sbdc/index/html. best, Sharon
From : Jim Newman
Location : Bloomfield Hills , MI
Question :
There are many courses and classes offered relative to expanding a small business. Could you recommend some of the better ones?

 

Reply :
Hi Jim, I recommend taking your classes locally so that you can build your networks as you build your business skills. You may consider looking into the programs offered by programs in Michigan by visiting the websites of these two organizations. www.cstonealliance.org and www. northerninitiatives.org. I am sure they can direct you to great services. Best, Sharon
From : Miriam Wilson
Location : Dover , Delaware
Question :
I am a start up accounting & bookkeeping firm and I am looking to target my business towards governmental audits ( I used to be an audited for the state of Delaware) What would be the best way to start this type of niche?

 

Reply :
Hi Miriam, The SBA offers great training on how to do business with government. Please visit their website and for trainings on procurement. Best, Sharon
From : Desiree
Location : Bowie , Maryland
Question :
No questions yet just checking to see if I am on

 

Reply :
Your on, sharon
From : Miriam Wilson
Location : Dover , Delaware
Question :
What do you think would be the most important items to have on your web-site? and the best way to drive potential clients to the web-site?

 

Reply :
HI Miriam, You need clear and concise information about your product and service, contact info (so that your potential clients can reach you) and testimonials from satisfied customers. They are the best sales people ever. Photos along with quotes are idea. Thanks, sharon
From : Miriam Wilson
Location : Dover , Delaware
Question :
I own a accounting & bookkeeping firm and I worked for the state of delaware as an auditor for 13 years before I started my own firm. I would like to do audits for the government. What would be the best way to market to the government for auditing services?

 

Reply :
Hi Miriam, The SBA offers great free programs on government procurement. Please look at the sba.gov/training. They have a great free training program on Doing Business with the Government. Sharon
From : Richard Phillips
Location : Summerfield , FL
Question :
Dear Sharon Miller: INFRADANT would like to know how we can find venture capitalists or financial capital help to provide us with the ability to hire staff and for our company's operations expense? Or how we can win a proposal? We are trying to stay out of debt and run a successful business. We are not able to keep up with the proposal processes without operational expense and salaries expenses. INFRADANT is an employee-owned, disabled woman owned small business with an organizational infrastructure comparable to that of a well-established small sized government prime and sub-contractor. We have the experience of performing program management and operation services to Local, State, Federal contracts and Commercial Clients. We provide state-of-the-art mission systems integration and other capabilities in the areas of sensing; effects; and command, control, communications and intelligence systems, as well as a broad range of healthcare IT support services and other services. We have 40+ employees that consist of: Barn Builder, Tiger Team Members. We have Barn Builder, Tiger Team Members to suit any project at any size. INFRADANT locations include: North Central Florida with easy access to the Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa and Tallahassee area and a short distance from Atlanta, GA. The other location is in the Baltimore, MD. and Washington, DC Area located in Westminster, MD. Richard Phillips, EVP and Partner INFRADANT LLC. 352-693-3581 management@infradant.com http://www.infradant.com

 

Reply :
Hi Richard, You are get great FREE help from SCORE volunteers in your area. These are are retired executives you can work with you one on one to help you with some of the challenge you state above - bidding, operations, management. visit score.org. As far as a loan, please go to sba.gov/women or www.awbc.org to find a women's business center in your area. The staff there can help you will loan packaging and can direct you to a bank or non-profit lender who might be able to help your company get a business loan. Best, Sharon
From : Samantha DiCola
Location : Springfield , VA
Question :
We are a non-profit that supports adults with disabilities we are looking to franchise a product we have created. Do you have any advise on how to forward.

 

Reply :
Hi Samantha, Just as any business would do, I suggest writing a full comprehensive business plan. You can take a course locally. That will help you think through full your plan and make sure that you identify all aspects of your business model. check with awbc website at www.awbc.org there is a fabulous women's business center in virginia. Best, Sharon
From : Rick Burkhard
Location : ,
Question :
My business here in California is Solar Electric. Are there any funding vehicles for people wanting to buy solar for their home or business?

 

Reply :
Hi Rick, PG&E has various programs for individuals and businesses seeking to use alternative energy. There is information about it on their website. If you are having trouble identifying the right person, call the number on your bill. Further the state department of environment may also be able to give you further info. Best, Sharon
From : Brian Harvey
Location : Owenton , KY
Question :
Are there agriculture grants available, to increase the size of a beef farm?

 

Reply :
Hi Brian, I am afraid that grants for businesses are very hard to come by, however there may be programs available through the USDA or a local university extension program. Best, Sharon
From : sharon miller
Location : san francisco , ca
Question :
checking in to see how the system works... sm

 

Reply :
can I respond now?
From : kyla
Location : largo , maryland
Question :
i am in the service industry and have a need to increase staff but not really enough income to support that, what suggestions do you have that can help me? thanks

 

Reply :
Hi Kyla, If you can, bring on contractors rather than employees. That way you can grow slowly and as your business increases, you can then make the commitment to a full time staff. Best, Sharon
From : Randolph
Location : San Antonio , TX
Question :
As an SBA Women’s Business Center, what kind of resources do you offer women small business owners?

 

Reply :
HI Randolph, As an SBA Women's Business Center we provide training and consulting services, as wells as an industry specific program for entrepreneurs in the fashion and apparel sectors, business/life coaching and financial education and loan packaging assistance. Please visit sba.gov/women or the association of women's business center's website at www.awbc.org to find a women's business center in your area. Sharon
From : Brittani Pena
Location : Houston , Texas
Question :
What are some of the top industries for Latina small businesses? Are there any industries that are seeing a lot of growth? In your experience, are there any culturally unique challenges that Latina small businesses face as opposed to non-minority or male owned small businesses, e.g. accessing resources or support for their business?

 

Reply :
Hi Brittani, All of the top industries are appropriate for Latina Small Businesses! In San Francisco, we do see a number of catering companies and restaurants run by Latinas. Unfortunately there are cultural challenges. For some it is language, however there are many Spanish language programs and services available. Check with Associaton of Women's Business Center's website www.awbc.org or the SBA.gov/women for a women's business center near you. Best, Sharon
From : David Elma
Location : Cincinnati , OH
Question :
I have a small construction company in Cincinnati Ohio -- started about two years ago. I have been considering applying for 8a certification but the process seems to be difficult. I was wondering if you thought it was worth the work and whether or not I should use a consultant like the ones I see online www.ez8a.com www.8acertification.net www.sba8a.net . Any help or suggestions on the 8a application process would be appreciated, or any comments on the value of a SBA 8a certification...Dave

 

Reply :
HI David, 8a certification does provide you with opportunities that you otherwise could not access. the sbdc has great consultants who can help you through the process. Start there, they have the expertise you need and their servcies are FREE. visit the sba website to locate the SBDC in your area. Best, Sharon
From : GEORGE ARRIS PARDALOS
Location : JEFFERSON CITY , MISSOURI
Question :
DEAR SHARON, I STARTED FRANCHISING BY FAMILY PIZZA RESTAURANT WHICH HAS BEEN OPEN SINCE 1961, 10 YEARS AGO, MY FIRST FRANCHISE HAS BECOME A WONDERFUL BUSINESS, HOWEVER MY OTHER 4 LOCATIONS HAVE NOT HAD MUCH SUCCESS. I RECENTLY HIRED A GREAT ADVERTISING AND MARKETING AGENCY TO HELP WITH BRANDING MY BUSINESS NAME AND PIZZA, AND WE ARE CURRENTLY DEVELOPING THE MARKET STARTEGY TO ELEVATE THE SALES OF EACH PIZZA RESTUARANT, THE MAJOR REASON MY FIRST FRANCHISE HAS HAD GREAT SUCCESS OTHER THAN THE PRODUCT ITSELF IS THE FRANCHISEE'S ARE WELL KNOWN IN THERE COMMUNITY. HOWEVER, THE OTHERS ARE NOT QUITE AS POPULAR. SO THERE LITTLE SUCCESS HAS ONLY COME FROM THE ACTUAL PIZZA WE SELL AND THE NAME OF OUR RESTUARANT. WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU OFFER THAT WILL BEST HELP INTRODUCE OUR RESTAURANT AND ITS RESPECTIVE OWNERS TO THERE COMMUNITY. THE AGENCY I HAVE HIRED FEELS THAT SOCIAL MEDIA AND TV. ARE THE BEST 2 WAYS TO HELP BRAND OUR PRODUCT. DO YOU AGREE? AND ARE THERE ANY OTHER SUGGESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE TO HELP MY OTHER RESTAURANTS IN DEVELOPING A LARGER FAN BASE? I HAVE HAULTED THE EXPANSION OF FURTHER RESTAURANTS UNTIL MY CURRENT STORES ALL BECOME A SUCCESS. I TRUELY HOPE YOU CAN OFFER ANY TIPS OR ADVICE FOR ME. ALSO I WOULD LIKE TO THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION.

 

Reply :
Hi George, You are very wise to build the success of yoru current franchiese before expanding further. Its sounds like you have a fantastic product and the founder himself (YOU) are superb. While social media and tv get the word out, your franchises also need to get customers in the door. Look back to when you opened your first restaurant, what were the marketing activities you under took? My guess is that you were very active in yoru community. Share those experiences with your franchises. One great opportunity for them is to promote local events - host a a party for your local soccer league or little league team - the good will will go very far and will set the foundation for repeat customers
From : Cindy
Location : Minneapolis , MN
Question :
Hi Sharon, We are a 5 year old manufacturing business in Minneapolis. We are a very small women-owned family operated business. We feel it is time to grow. We want to purchase or lease a different building and also purchase a machine or 2. We will need financing for this. What would you recommend we do first?

 

Reply :
HI Cindy, The SBA has a great product for purchasing real estate - please check in with your local sbdc, or your local small business development organizations. two can be found at www.mccdmn.org and womenventures.org. They should be able to give you excellent advice. Best, Sharon
From : Baskar Subbarao
Location : Chesterfield , MO
Question :
Our business provides professional services in enegineering and construction. Can you provide information about any SBA loans that will help manage cash flow

 

Reply :
HI Baskar, Please check with your local SBDC there can work with you both to help manage cash flow and to identify appropriate loan products. You can find the sbdc in your area by going to www.sba.gov/aboutsba/sbaprograms/sbdc Best, Sharon
From : Mayra
Location : El Paso , TX
Question :
Am I on?

 

Reply :
Yes Mayra, you are! Sharon
From : Tina Davis
Location : Wilmington , Delaware
Question :
Could you suggest any strategies in getting new business in the construction industry? We are already a certified WOB, and are currently applying for the DBE; however, we still are not being awarded any projects from the bidding process. Thx.

 

Reply :
Hi Tina, A great way for a small business to get started is as a subcontractor. One way to get started is to meet the prime contractors. Go to your chamber of commerce or other business events, or even make cold calls so that you can meet and present your business to them. Many prime contracts are looking for certified subprimes to work with. Best, Sharon
From : Jim Newman
Location : ,
Question :
comment to Jennifer In Shakopee: There are usually ofices in larger urban areas that rent individual offices to tenants with common secretarial srvices, etc. that can be rented on a short-term basis. You might look for some of those.

 

Reply :
Thanks for this suggestion. sharon
From : Johnny Johnson
Location : Chicago , IL
Question :
Hi Sharon, I am currently working to identify foreign investment and JV opportunities. Can you please advise me on funding for developing a proposal for JV and investment partnership? JVs are legal documents.

 

Reply :
Hi Johnny, My suggestion is that you first start by preparing a business plan and use that to "shop" your business to foreign investors and potential jv investment partners. Look into www.accionchicago.org or www.jvschicago.org. They may be able to provide you with support for developing your business plan. Best regards, Sharon
From : Bruce
Location : Walton , NY
Question :
I need to expand my operation, I own the bldg that my income tax office is located we are having a hard time growing while my other offices are growing. I need more space, I don't think the bank will loan the money for the expansion. What options do I have?

 

Reply :
HI Bruce, In this current real estate market, you might be able to negotiate an excellent deal on renting empty space - or subletting space from a business that has downsized. Scan the market, pick your location and negogiate. Best, sharon
From : Bernice McClendon
Location : Calumet Citry , Illinois
Question :
During these economic times, many small businesses and fighting just to stay alive. How can small businesses expand when staying alive is so crucial. Where can we get money to stay alive, and expand? That is the question!

 

Reply :
Hi Bernice, I know these are really hard economic times but they will not stay like this! Staying alive and expansion and two different strateiges. Pick the one you want. My suggestion, focus on sustainable right now and begin to make your plans for expansion. Use this time to create an action plan so that when the time is right for expansion you will be ready. Best, Sharon
From : U.S. Small Business Administration
Location : Washington , D.C.
Question :

 

Reply :
Thank you so much for your stimulating and thought provoking questions. I thank you for your time and wish you all the very best as you create and expand your own thriving enterprise. Sincerely, Sharon Miller