Monday, August 30, 2010

Grants to help minority businesses compete

Minority- and women-owned businesses in Manatee and Sarasota counties have an opportunity to get an inside look at how to better compete for federal highway contracts.

The Florida Department of Transportation was awarded a $600,000 grant to give these small businesses tips on procurement, securing bonds and business management when competiting for federal highway projects.

The grants were awarded to FDOT from the Federal Highway Administration's Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/Supportive Services program. To participate businesses must be certified by the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise by demonstrating that at least 51 percent of the business is owned by a minority or a woman.

For more information on the FDOT Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program and the grant funds available through the program visit

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The power of a business plan

The Small Business Administration's latest lending statistics for major loan programs show a slight uptick in the number of startups that have been funded this year.

Through Aug. 13, the SBA has funded 9 percent more startups than this time last year under two of its most popular lending programs, the 7a loan and the America's Recovery Capital Loan. Bankers and small business consultants always reinforce the importance of a strong business plan, especially in this economy, as entrepreneurs seek funding.

As entrepreneurs most often focus on funding, the assistance that's often overlooked is educational resources. At, there are a series of free tools to help startups write a business plan. Under the Small Business Planner tab, you'll find a host of information on how to write a business plan, including a detailed, step-by-step guide as well as a free online audio tutorial with a slideshow presentation.

A business plan is essential a roadmap on how to develop and operate your company so don't overlook this valuable resource.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The world wide web

The Bradenton Herald on Monday featured a few local businesses who are either working to launch their first website or are still resisting the technology.
For the story, I spoke with Pedro Perez, vice president of Nuevo Advertising Group, and he had some interesting tips to share on what entrepreneurs should consider when creating or maintaining a website for their business.
Keep these three major points in mind when developing a website: Form, function and design.
"If you're going to go about doing it yourself you have to make sure the website functions," Perez said. "Then there's form; how does it look and how does it come across to the consumer. Be it good or bad it's going to represent the company."
Finally, there's design. The website's design should be a good balance of well thought out graphics and content for consumers.
"If you have a very beautiful website that you cannot navigate or find content on it's not doing its job," Perez said. "If the business owner doesn't care enough to update (the website) then why should the consumer care."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Making your way to entrepreneurship

It's not easy starting a new business. One of the first steps is deciding whether entrepreneurship is the right choice for you. Then you have to think about writing a business plan, government regulations and taxes, accounting and finding capital.
In June, I wrote a story about Manasota SCORE offering new courses to help those looking to start a business. The local chapter is offering those courses throughout the remainder of the year and you can view the course schedule at
Now another local non-profit is starting a similar program for aspiring and exisitng entrepreneurs. The Central Economic Development Center in Bradenton is starting a free eight-week workshop titled "How to Start a Small Business."
The first class is from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Thursday at 1301 6th Ave. W., Suite 401, Bradenton. The classes be held at the same time every Thursday through Sept. 23.
To sign up for the workshop, call (941) 744-2984 or e-mail

Monday, August 2, 2010

Manatee officials to host small business forum

Times have been tough for small businesses. If you want to let your local officials know just how difficult business is, you can do so on Tuesday.
The Manatee County Board of Commissioners is hosting a forum at 1 p.m. Tuesday to hear from local businesses about the challenges they're facing. The forum will be an opportunity to discuss the economic challenges you're facing as a small business owner and any suggestions you have for how the county can help.
The free forum will run from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. at the Manatee Civic Center, One Haben Blvd., Palmetto.