COCC’s Small Business Development Center is a steady resource in a time of uncertainty
Geoff Frank, owner of Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe, a paddling outfitter and guiding company, makes his livelihood on the banks of the Deschutes River, where his Bend shop has been located for the past 20 years. “Our whole mission is to create paddlers,” he said of the busy company, which caters to all manner of boaters and floaters with gear, rentals and instruction, and typically employs some 60 staffers in the summer.But when COVID-19 swept in, troubled waters were unavoidable. Small businesses that have a “season,” like Tumalo Creek, were particularly vulnerable.”We had to completely rethink every aspect of our operation and adapt,” Frank said. “We came up with a reservation system for our rentals, to manage how many people we allowed at one time. And we got creative on how we could still offer instruction with maintaining safety and physical distancing.” Controlling expenses and scrutinizing the budget, he said, were critical.And while Frank credits his team for ably rising to the ongoing challenge, he also recognizes the role played by his Small Business Management Program training, an ongoing program offered by Central Oregon Community College’s Small Business Development Center.”The program helped me understand the importance of having solid tools in place to help manage expenses and maintain profitability even while revenues took a bit of a hit,” he added. “It gave me the skills and mindset to navigate these challenges in a successful way.”Each year, the Small Business Management Program runs a new cohort of up to 24 clients, with training unfolding over 10 months. The program (now virtual) involves three hours of class time and two hours of advising each month, with a private monthly session tailor-made to the individual business. The next cohort begins Feb. 10, with openings currently available; sign-up interviews are taking place now.Jim Wilcox, who teaches the program and provides in-depth insights, helps business owners see the full picture. “Through the program, they understand the functional areas of running a successful business — from planning to marketing and sales, operations, employee management, accounting and finance,” he said.For businesses that are in more of a fledgling phase, the SBDC offers both one-on-one consultation and remote classroom instruction. Seven advisors are located throughout Central Oregon, teaching and consulting clients from Sunriver to Prineville. No-cost advising sessions are offered via Zoom and by phone.The SBDC also offers coursework, virtual for now, such as “Re-engineering Your Business for the Covid-19 World” (begins Jan. 12; $129) and “Digital Marketing for Small Business” (begins Jan. 19; $89), that covers broad business terrain.For Andy Stearns, who operates My Lucky House, a real estate sales and rental business, the SBDC has been a calm port in a raging storm. “They offer counseling and support to help businesses get loans and find the best chances for getting funding as quickly as possible,” he said. “With the rules and guidelines rapidly changing, I found myself sharing their COVID-19 information with my banker, CPA and other business owners who were all starving for accurate and updated information.””Just this year, we’ve helped 498 businesses and assisted with close to $12 million in loans,” said Ken Betschart, director of the SBDC, who brings more than 20 years’ worth of senior-level executive experience to the organization. “And we cover all phases, from start-ups to new growth to the sale of a business. We’re an experienced team that’s here to help.”For more information on COCC’s Small Business Development Center, call 541-383-7290 or visit cocc.edu/sbdc.
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