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SRJC-based center hoping to expand Sonoma, Marin reach

Small businesses are the heart of California's economic growth. In 2006, the state had 718,220 small businesses, which represented 99.2 percent of the state's employers. Locally, the Small Business Development Center at Santa Rosa Junior College is invested in the North Bay's economic development and wants to be of service to you.

What does the SBDC do? Our mission is helping people in Marin and Sonoma counties who want to start a business or have a small business that they would like to grow. If you have fewer than 500 employees, you are a small business. Our funding comes from the Small Business Administration and the California Community College's Economic and Workforce Development Programs.

Could your business benefit from access to capital, help with marketing or reviewing your strategic plan? Need some fresh professional advice regarding your product or service?

Last year with our assistance, 61 North Bay small businesses had an increase in sales of more than $6.1 million. Since our opening in 1991, approximately 679 small businesses in these two counties had an increase in sales of more than $64.5 million.

Our business advisers are knowledgeable in a broad scope of industries and aspects of business management. Every meeting with our advisers is free of charge, confidential, results-oriented and designed for your specific needs. In addition to our no-cost counseling, we offer low-cost workshops for people interested in starting a business as well as seasoned small business owners.

If you have no or little small business experience, we recommend our "So, You Want to Start a Business" workshops. This is a three-session, nine-hour course where you will learn about planning a small business, what to consider, the legal structure, marketing and finance. The last course covers developing your business plan. Once you have a business plan, you can register to meet with our advisers.

You do not need to come to the Santa Rosa center to meet with our advisers. In Marin County, we have satellite offices at the chambers of commerce in Novato, San Rafael, San Anselmo and at the Marin Employment Connection. We are looking at opportunities to be of service in southern and western Marin.

In Sonoma County, our satellite offices are at the chambers of commerce in Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Sonoma Valley and at the Town of Windsor in addition to the main office in downtown Santa Rosa.  Please select the office that is most convenient for you.

Have an idea for a new product? Our Sawyer Center can advise how to turn your idea into a marketable product. Need a guest speaker for your business, trade or civic organization? Our advisers can talk on various business-related topics.

The SBDC also offers several programs (in English and Spanish) teaching youth ages 15 to 27 valuable skills they will need as they enter the working world and the basics of starting a business.  These free workshops have been presented at organizations serving youth and various high schools throughout both counties.

While the SBDC has assisted many local small businesses, we want to do more throughout Sonoma and Marin counties to stimulate our economic growth. We want to be of service to more small businesses, more civic and business organizations and more community and educational organizations that work with youth.

Now that you know who we are, what we do and why we want to help address our current and future economic issues, the question is: "What can we do for you?"

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Leonard Weingarten is a business adviser with the Small Business Development Center at Santa Rosa Junior College. To learn more, please visit www.santarosa.edu/sbdc or call 707-524-1770.