Expo helps Black Belt

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 22, 2005

A small business may begin an innovative idea, but making it a success involves a great deal of work.

Potential business developers need a place to start, solid financial backing and the assistance of a handful of experts before they can begin to make a profit.

But first, they need to do to their research and create a business plan.

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This was the advice given to a crowd of business owners Thursday at the Small Business Development Committee Expo held at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center.

The expo was the second in a series sponsored by the Small Business Development Committee, part of Gov. Bob Riley’s Blackbelt Action Commission.

Claire Twardy, an SBDC member, said the event was a way to provide assistance and resources to the future small business owners of Dallas County.

“It’s very difficult to start a small business and stay in business,” Twardy told the crowd. “We have programs that are ready and waiting for you.”

Twardy and other speakers informed attendees about the availability of entrepreneurial classes, federal and state programs, and the success of some local small businesses.

One of the speakers was Walt Higgins from the Hope Unity Fund, a statewide advocate for small businesses.

“We have many different resources that we can refer people to,” Higgins said. “If a small business is thriving and there is a desire to expand to the next level, we can help the owners do that using our many resources.”

Lorenza Patrick, from the Alabama State University Small Business Development Center, discussed a 12-week course called Next Level that teaches people how to manage and operate a business.

“There are 13 people from Selma who have already completed the Next Level

courses,” Patrick said.

Towards the end of the expo, Beth Hamilton, co-owner of Freedom Coffee, offered several tips on how to create a successful business.

“You have to be willing to work all the time. Weekends off are not an option in the beginning,” Hamilton said.

She added that it also helps to have a good personality and not be afraid to ask for help.

Local Selma resident Edie Delp was also on hand to talk about the major success she had selling items online.

“Consider the Internet as a possible resource for your business,” she said. “It expands you outside of Selma.”

Vanessa Thomas, a local minister, said she attended the expo because she had several business ideas she has been considering.

“I thought (the expo) was really interesting and I learned a lot about what is available in this area,” Thomas said. “I liked the fact that they were stressing a good business plan and the other approaches to being successful. It was exciting for me to see all these other people who want to start a business.”

After all the advice, Twardy told the crowd the best way to be successful in business was to “find your passion and stick with it.”