Saturday , June 22 2024

CSUSB’s Entrepreneurial Resource Centers hit the ground running

Last November, the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State San Bernardino opened an Entrepreneurial Resource Center in downtown San Bernardino. Two months later, it did the same thing in Temecula. 

Both offices are set-up to be “one-stop” locations for anyone looking to start a business or grow the one they already own, said Mike Stull, director of the center for entrepreneurship and a driving force behind the creation of both resource centers.

While it’s probably too early to declare victory, both operations appear to be off to a good start: San Bernardino has helped nearly 1,400 businesses since it opened, while Temecula has assisted close to 1,500, according to data gathered last week.

“So far, so good,” Stull said.

Stull spoke with IE Business Daily last week about getting both offices started, why he believes this is a good time to start a small business, and the plan to add “affiliates” at both resource centers.

Q: Where did the idea for Entrepreneurial Resource Centers come from?

A: It was something we (the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship) had been considering for about three years, maybe longer than that. We wanted to have one place where all of the resources you need to get a business started, or help an existing business grow, was under one roof.

Q: How difficult has that been?

A: It’s probably impossible to get all of that in one place, but you get as much as you can. That way people don’t have to go all over to get the resources they need.

Q: How do you define a small business?

A: Most of the time we use the U.S. Small Business Administration definition. That changes all of time, but whenever it applies that’s what we use. Most of the time, the businesses we work with have no more than 50 employees, and some only have five to 10.  (Note: the Small Business Administration considers most manufacturing businesses with fewer than 500 employees, and most non-manufacturing business with less than $7.5 million in annual revenue, to be small businesses).

Q: Have you signed up any affiliates?

A: We have two. The National Latina Business Women’s Association Inland Empire, which is a nonprofit that offers mentoring and technical assistance to Latina business owners. The second one is Enterprise Funding Corporation in Palm Desert. They arrange SBA 504 Small Business Loans, which are designed to help entrepreneurs get a small businesses started.

Q: How long will an affiliation last?

A: We plan to renew them every year.

Q: How many people work at the resource centers?

AEventually, we expect to have 10 to 15 employee at each one.

Q: What makes a good affiliate? What qualities are you looking for, and what will you be doing for them?

A: It’s what they’re going to be doing for us. We’re doing a lot of training and counseling, mostly with start-ups but also with businesses that are established and that want to improve themselves, and our affiliates will be helping us with that. An ideal affiliate will be someone who has an expertise that we need but don’t have.

Q: Where is your funding coming from?

A: Some of it comes from Riverside and San Bernardino, some from the Inland Empire Small Business Development Center and the Inland Empire Women’s Business Center. We have about $5 million invested in this so far.

Q: How much of a budget does each office have?

A:  The San Bernardino office has an operating budget about $1.8 million. Temecula has about $1.7 million.

Q: What attracted you to the two affiliates you’ve signed?

A: There were several things we liked about them. The Latina Business Women’s Association gives us access to a growing market that we need to work with more. Enterprise Funding has access to start-up capital that we don’t have. They’re both doing exactly what we’re looking for in an affiliate: providing an important service that we wouldn’t have without them.

Q: How did you decide to locate in San Bernardino and Temecula? That gives you an office in each county, but was there more to it than that?

A: San Bernardino, besides being in a major market, was chosen because the city really wanted it. We went with Riverside because it’s a major business market that will be able to serve a lot of cities in a densely populated area.

Q: Any plans to add more resource centers?

A: No.  We have an iHub in Palm Desert that we want to turn into a resource center someday, but that’s it. That will give us a presence in the Coachella Valley, but I don’t think we need any more than that.

Q: What is the iHub Center?

A: Palm Desert started it a few years ago. The city asked us to take it over, and we agreed. They set it up primarily to attract retail business, but that’s a little too narrow for us. We’re trying to give it a broader focus. (Note: The Inland Empire School of Entrepreneurship and the Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State San Bernardino assumed control of the Palm Desert iHub in January).

Q: What about more affiliates? Are there any in the pipeline?

A:  We plan to announce four to eight shortly.

Q: You pointed out a story published by Reuters last month that reported record low confidence among U.S. small business owners, mostly because of concerns about inflation, yet you believe this is good time to start a small business, particularly in the Inland Empire. Why is that?

A: Because the Inland Empire has a growing population, it has affordable housing, and both of those things create a demand for more goods and services. That’s exactly the kind of market you want if you’re going to start a small business. Right now, there are probably more small businesses in the Inland Empire than there have ever been.

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