After 10 years operating a home daycare center, Forest Park resident Marjorie Adam is ready to try something new.

“It’s a manufacturing idea,” said Adam, who was mum on the details of her new business venture, but she hopes it could create much-needed jobs for Austin, where she grew up.

To move her business from idea stage to a functioning one, Adam attended a business development workshop Oct. 2 at Loretto Hospital, 645 S. Central. Austin Weekly News co-sponsored the event with the Austin Chamber of Commerce and West Side Business Network, among others.

Initially, Adam came to network but walked away with information, including using TIF (tax increment financing) dollars to finance her business.

“It is really important … to understand the opportunities and the support available for entrepreneurs. It is just that you have to come out and get it,” Adam said.

Wednesday’s workshop featured presentations on effective advertising to build brand awareness and information technology (IT) for business and access to capital. The event also included presentations from Bethel New Life and Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative. The initiative helps entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing education, access to capital and peer-to-peer business advisement.

Dawn Ferencak, an advertising consultant with Wednesday Journal, said there are many ways to grow a business, and advertising is one way. But to be effective, businesses should have a clear advertising message about their product or services that’s constant and consistent, Ferencak explained. Wednesday Journal owns Austin Weekly News.

That message evolves from a simple question: “How do you help your customers?” she said. The message should express what the business does best or better than anyone else, Ferencak added.

“That would be a reason for a customer to walk through your door instead of another business’ door,” she said, adding that an advertising budget should be part of a company’s business plan.

“It is just as important as your electricity and gas. It is a tool for you to grow your business,” Ferencak said.

Access to capital is the biggest burden for entrepreneurs. The Women’s Business Development Center offers loans up to $25,000 for start-ups, businesses with credit issues or no collateral to secure a traditional bank loan.

WBDC loans are different because the organization looks for businesses that have compelling stories as to why they need the loan, WBDC’s Elizabeth Gardner said.

“They are called story loans,” said Gardner, a community relations and corporate initiative director. “What we want to know is what the funds will be used for and how you will pay us back.”

TIFs are another tool to finance a business, said Amara Enyia of ACE Municipal Partners, who is also executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce. TIFs, she explained, are an economic development tool to improve blighted areas. She said there is $1.7 billion in the city’s TIF coffers, but that is underutilized in Austin.

“These dollars are available and we will help you walk through the process of developing programs to help you use those dollars,” Enyia said.

Austin resident Tanya Harris was among the 50 people who attended the workshop. She said the information was helpful and admitted she was unaware of all the resources available to Austin business owners. Harris has made a name for herself as a baby photographer, but wants to learn more about marketing to show off her other photography services like professional headshots.

“A lot of my business that I’ve gotten is through word of mouth,” Harris said. “It’s never been marketing through newspapers or anything of that nature. I’m trying to branch off into that to see if that will generate more business for me.”

Resources

For more information visit:
AWN West Side Business Network: www.austinweeklynews.com/Directory/Resources/Austin-Weekly-News-West-Side-Business-Network
MXO Tech: www.mxotech.com
Women's Business Development Center: www.wbdc.org
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative: http://www.goldmansachs.com/citizenship/10000-small-businesses/US/
Austin Chamber of Commerce:  www.austinchicagochamber.com