Free Program Helps Texoma Small Businesses

A landmark study blasted small business growth in the state of Texas. The entrepreneurial survey gave the state low grades for incentives, financing, and education.

Yet Texoma's small business ventures may be leaps and bounds better than those of the state. Midwestern State University is home to the Small Business Development Center, a free resource to help any new or existing business in 12 counties. Between 800-900 potential small business owners seek help every year. A number which proves Texoma's business can be booming.

"There's a very strong small business segment in Wichita Falls," says L.O. Nelson, the Assistant Director of the Small Business Development Center, "Pretty much anywhere and including Wichita Falls, small business is the backbone of the economy."

A backbone that can take a lot of back-breaking work to succeed. Barbara Noble and her husband have co-owned Abner's Nutrition Center in Wichita Falls for nearly 7 years.

"You have to sacrifice a lot to go into business and be prepared to put in long hours," explains Noble.

The couple spends an average of 17 hours at the store, just to keep it open, which Barbara says can be a daunting task."Well, it was very scary because you know, we put a lot of money in," she says.

"The main thing that any small business faces is cash flow, keeping the cash flow moving through the business. for start ups, of course it funding, initial funding is the biggest hurdle," Nelson says. "We exist to help people who have small businesses ideas or have existing businesses who are thinking about expanding or growing, have issues that they need help with."

The free service explains issues involving financing, while helping potential owners develop solid business plans, marketing plans and cash flow projections. The owner of M. Lynne Designs, Merrill Sweatt, used the service to help focus her business.

"I have vintage painted furniture, I have a ton of accessories, gifts, sorority items, baby clothes, home decor, just a little bit of everything," exclaims Sweatt. The store opened in May and thanks to friends and family, it's door bells are still ringing. "I had a lot of support from the community just because I am a locally owned business. And I think a lot of people now are looking for things that you can't get just anywhere, which is what I try and carry, so I do think a lot of people are leaning towards a smaller, non chained business."

Nelson agrees. "People in Wichita Falls are wanting your business, they are wanting to help you and they have a very strong entrepreneurial spirit around here and we see that day in and day out as we work with small businesses."

Before your business can be put on the map, local owners say to be prepared and the work will be worth it.

"Long hours, lots of stress, worry, but it's worth it," says Noble, " If you have a passion for it, it's worth it. You'll be glad you did it."

Sweatt agrees, "It's been wonderful and I am just very fortunate to be able to work for myself and I've had such support from the community. I love what I am doing."

For those who would like to study the art of owning your own business, next semester, MSU will start offering a new entrepreneurial consultant course and in the next few years, leaders hope an entrepreneur degree will be offered.

The Small Business Development Center is also looking to start an Angel Funding program to help start up businesses.

Mary Moloney, Newschannel 6