Terri Ferguson Smith
Prospective business owners have more free help available to them than they might realize.
That's why Main Street Meridian and other agencies will hold a seminar next week to bring all the available resources together in a public forum, according to Karen Rooney, Main Street executive director.
Organizers want would-be entrepreneurs to know that they don't have to go through the process alone, Rooney said.
"There are people who can guide you and help you," Rooney said. "You can avoid the common first-year pitfalls hopefully."
The goal is to have questions answered and a plan in place before approaching a bank for funding the business, she said.
Rooney said once she realized that there were numerous services available and that they were free, she wanted to make sure those interested in developing a business would know that too.
Among the panel members is Dustin Odom, counselor with the Small Business Development Center.
"Dustin can help would-be entrepreneurs with putting together their business plans, with helping them with financials, helping them to get their loan package together so that it's banker-ready," Rooney said.
Other panelists include Jerome Kittrell, commercial broker; Victoria Liddell, Entrepreneur Program Director at MCC; Natalie Purvis, procurement advisor for the Mississippi Development Authority, Rooney; D.C. Stuart, commercial development for Mississippi Power; and Melanie Walters, marketing specialist for Comcast Spotlight.
Kittrell, she said, will talk about the do's and don'ts of commercial leasing.
"Before you sign on that dotted line, you really need to make sure you know what you're signing up for. It's different than just signing up for an apartment," Rooney said.
Walters will talk about marketing a business, Liddell will talk about available loans, Purvis will discuss doing business with the state of Mississippi, and Stuart will talk about Mississippi Power's discount program for new businesses. Rooney will discuss the advantages of locating a business downtown and what businesses are more likely to be successful downtown. However, Rooney said this seminar is not just about downtown.
"This is for everybody," Rooney said.
Rooney said she hopes this will give budding business people a clearer idea of how to make their business plans.
"The idea is not to overwhelm you, but to inspire you," she said. "Sometimes people have a great idea for a business. They just don't have an idea of how to get started. The point is to come to this seminar and get acquainted with all of these people who are willing and ready to help you get started. They are going to show you the way and hopefully you are going to avoid those pitfalls that are so common to businesses that start up and fail."
Rooney described this effort as Main Street's first brick in its economic restructuring program. The panel has also put together a flyer detailing the steps one should take to obtain permits from the city.
"It shows you where you need to go; who you need to see each step along the way," Rooney said.
The free seminar will be held Tuesday, Nov. 19 at Union Station on Front Street from 12 noon until 1:30 p.m. Participants are invited to bring a sack lunch and a drink, but dessert will be provided. Also participants are reminded to bring their own pen and paper.
Participants are asked to RSVP Rooney by calling 601-693-7480 or by contacting her through email: email@example.com.