Anyone interested in starting a small business in San Bernardino will soon have a resource available to them that will help them get started.
The city and Cal State San Bernardino have formed the Entrepreneurial Resource Center, which will be located in 5,000 square feet of office space known as Studio D in downtown San Bernardino, according to city and university officials.
Expected to open in October, the resource center will take up the entire fifth floor of a building at 330 N D St. It will be operated by the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship, which is part of the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration at the university.
“The Entrepreneurial Resource Center will bring together a wide range of entrepreneurial support programs and organizations to provide a complete set of training, business counseling, and access to resources for small business owners and entrepreneurs in the city” according to a statement on the city’s and the university’s website.
Studio D, the building’s top floor, will accommodate five to 10 employees. It will be a “one-stop shop” for small business entrepreneurs, helping them through the difficult and often confusing process of getting a business off the ground.
That help will include training, technical assistance, and help securing financing and dealing with regulations.
The downtown location in the heart of San Bernardino’s business district will give fledgling entrepreneurs better access to the resources they will need to manage their start-ups. If it works, it will also increase the number of businesses within the city and give them a better chance of succeeding, said Mike Stull, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and School of Entrepreneurship at Cal State San Bernardino.
Both the city and the university are heavily committed to making the project work: San Bernardino is investing $1.8 million over three years, and the Center for Entrepreneurship is putting up $1.9 million through several of its business assistance programs, including the Inland Empire Small Business Development Center and Inland Empire Women’s Business Center.
The city, which approved the partnership this month, is making its contribution from funds it received from the American Rescue Plan Act, one of several federal programs that helped businesses survive the pandemic.
“That [$3.7 million] should be more than enough to get us started and keep us going,” Stull said. “The Entrepreneurial Resource Center will also help owners of existing businesses enlarge or otherwise improve their operations. Its main goal will be to help San Bernardino grow its economy, but it will not limit itself to San Bernardino business owners.
“If we get a request from Highland or some other neighboring city, we will do whatever we can to help them,” Stull said. “But we aren’t going to market to anyone outside of San Bernardino, and we won’t work just with small businesses.
“That will be the emphasis, but we’ll also work with larger businesses.”
Several of the resource center’s programs will be:
- Marketplace Program, which will help entrepreneurs move from having an idea for a business to launching a micro-business. There will be an emphasis on starting a downtown farmers market that would include food and crafts sales, all from the Inland region, and e-commerce.
“There is a lot of interest in getting a farmers market started,” Stull said.
- Small Eats Program, a six-week set of courses that show how to start and run a food-based business;
- Catapult Business Growth Network, which will be 50 hours of instruction that will focus on ways to manage business growth;
- Financial Fitness Boot Camp – a four-day workshop, specifically for small business owners, that will teach financial literacy and money management basics;
- Main Street Digital Program, which will assist brick-and-mortar businesses get online;
- A program that will help small businesses prepare and understand contracts;
- UpStarters Discovery Program, which will teach middle and high school students the basics of starting and running a business.
“The goal is to provide as many services and as much help as we can,” Stull said.”As we move forward we’ll assess it and fill in the gaps where we have to. But this is going to be a long-term program. We can’t roll it out in a day.”
The resource center got started about two and a half years ago when the city and Cal State San Bernardino began working with the Aspen Institute, a global nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that addresses political, social, and economic issues.
Officials from the city and the university were participating in a conference with five other cities – Phoenix, Miami, Chicago, San Antonio, and El Paso – about how to help Latino businesses in those municipalities get started and grow.
From there, the San Bernardino delegation decided to come up with a program – with an assist from Aspen – that would help the city’s entire business community, not just one ethnic group, said Jeff Kraus, San Bernardino’s public information officer.
By helping businesses grow, the resource center can help San Bernardino’s long-term downtown restoration plans, which include demolishing the Carousel Mall and replacing it with commercial, residential, and retail development.
Plans also call for upgrading San Manuel Stadium, home of the Inland Empire 66ers minor league baseball team, and improving the Regal Cinema Plaza and Convention Center.
San Bernardino officials also want to start a $3 million grant program for small businesses and non-profits.
“It’s important that small businesses have something like the resource center to go to when they need help,” said Kraus, who started an advertising agency in Riverside and ran it for about 12 years before selling it. “There are a lot of problems to deal with when you start a business – arranging financing, dealing with regulations, managing growth – and small business owners usually don’t have the resources to deal with those things.”