Advisers Forecast ‘Great Year’ For Small Businesses
The Jamestown region has experienced an increase in small business development over the past year, leading local business advisers to forecast a “great year” in 2023 for small businesses.
Asked whether the Small Business Development Center at Jamestown Community College has witnessed an increase in small business developments over the past year, Dr. Courtney Curatolo, director, said “without question” the SBDC has “absolutely” seen an increase in small business startups and developments in the region throughout 2022.
“We’ve had a lot of people coming in now that we’re moving past COVID-19, and people really getting boots on the ground with their ideas and forming those ideas for startup businesses,” Curatolo said.
Based on the data collected by the SBDC, Curatolo believes multiple factors have contributed to the increase in the region’s small businesses over the past year.
One of the main reasons Curatolo said there has been an increase in small businesses is the affect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If someone was laid off because of the pandemic or for any other reason in the last two years, a lot of them have said, ‘You know what, this is my chance to go into business for myself. I’m gonna go after that idea that I’ve been brewing in my head for a while,'” she said. “Those people are taking the leap into small business, and a lot of them are being very successful.”
Curatolo said the end of the year and the start of the new year is another factor that contributes to increased interest in people starting small businesses. She said the SBDC helps “a lot of clients” during January and February as they implement their New Year’s resolutions of starting new businesses.
As small businesses increase in the region, Curatolo said the SBDC is available to help small business owners become successful. She explained the SBDC is a free service for any small business with less than 500 employees.
Throughout the state of New York, there are 22 Small Businesses Development Centers. The Local SBDC serves businesses in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. While Curatolo said most of the local offices are located in Jamestown, she said the SBDC has outreach offices in both Dunkirk and Olean. The SBDC is also planning on expanding its operations in Allegany county in 2023.
“We have four certified business advisers, and they can help with anything from business plan development, financial projections, putting together a marketing plan, helping to start a website, implementing e-commerce into a website,” Curatolo said.
The SBDC also has an online business academy with a variety of courses that are free to watch at any time. The SBDC also offers two paid certification courses in social media and entrepreneurship essentials.
Some of the SBDC’s free online courses stemmed from the COVID-19 pandemic, when Curatolo said the SBDC realized that many local businesses either did not have a website or did not have a website that was properly designed for e-commerce.
“They weren’t ready to pivot into a technology world for their business at the start of COVID-19,” she said. “We developed two classes that we offer for free, they showcase how to create a website on different platforms, how to implement e-commerce from different platforms into your website.”
In addition to the SBDC’s online courses, Curatolo said the organization also provides one-on-one training opportunities.
Heading into 2023, Curatolo said she is “really excited,” as she believes 2023 will be a “great year” for small businesses in the region. According to Curatolo, the SBDC is planning on getting “back to basics” after the COVID-19 pandemic by prioritizing business outreach opportunities and making a difference in local communities.
“Prior to COVID-19, we were really doing a lot of outreach into different communities, working with a lot of minorities and we had a lot of social ideas popping up in different libraries around the region,” she said. “Our goal in 2023 is to really get back to these ideas that we had going into COVID-19. Our boots are going to be on the ground instead of in our remote offices and our homes and our office space.”
Curatolo said it is important for the SBDC to be “out in the community” and showcase the variety of services that are freely available for small businesses in the region.
While Curatolo believes 2023 will be an “exciting” year for the SBDC and local small businesses, she acknowledged that small businesses continue to face many challenges.
Between state legislation, legal issues, state and federal restrictions, tax information and human resource concerns, Curatolo said small business owners often have to manage many concerns at the same time.
“I think the biggest issue is that as a business owner, you have to wear 10 different caps and you have to know a little bit about each one of these,” she said. “The good thing is that our advisers can really help in different areas.”
While each small business may not be fully knowledgeable or fully equipped to handle every aspect of business, Curatolo said the SBDC provides services to help walk small business owners through each process of developing local businesses.
Curatolo added that the SBDC has a business permit center to help Chautauqua County businesses work through the process of obtaining the necessary permits and licenses required to own and operate businesses. She explained that it can be difficult for businesses to stay updated on the latest laws, restrictions and legislation regarding the business community. In order to alleviate this stress, the SBDC partners with local businesses to raise awareness for any changes that need to be made for businesses to remain in compliance with local, state and federal restrictions.
For small businesses interested in the free services provided by the SBDC, Curatolo said the Jamestown location’s website (www.sbdcjcc.org) and the online business academy’s website ( sbdcbusinessacademy.com/) are good places to start.
“They can call us or they can go to our website,” Curatolo said. “We have a lot of resources on our website; we also are active on Facebook and Linked-In, so they can always go to our Facebook page.”
Curatolo said the SBDC is currently placing an emphasis on the use of social media as a “critical part” of the small business community. She explained that social media has provided an opportunity for the SBDC to “showcase” various small businesses in the region.
While everything the SBDC does to help small businesses is confidential, Curatolo said the organization can help local businesses with some marketing opportunities on the SBDC’s Facebook page and other social media platforms.
“I don’t want to be the best kept secret of the community,” she said. “I want everybody to know we’re here to help. We’re free and confidential, and we have so many experts on our team that are there to help.”