Scuddy J. LeBlanc, Cross, Deborah C., Merrill, Thomas A., Morgan, Johnny W. | 4/19/2005 10:29:20 PM
LSU AgCenter Community Economic Development agents are conducting workshops around the state to help new businesses get started or established business owners to be more productive.
One example is a workshop for entrepreneurs held recently in Chalmette to help would-be business owners prepare the groundwork for opening their businesses.
In that example, LSU AgCenter community economic development agents Deborah Cross and Scuddy LeBlanc say the four workshop sessions, which totaled 10 hours of classroom time, were designed to allow potential business owners to hear from a variety of professionals and to give those professionals opportunities to share their expertise.
"What we’re trying to do with this workshop is to at least help these potential business owners put together a rough outline of their business plan," LeBlanc said.
Cross added that the workshop, which is dubbed "Starting A Business: Is It For You?" has been taught for the past three years and has been offered in Tangipahoa, St. Charles, St. John, St. Mary, Iberia, Tensas, Madison and Franklin parishes.
Dr. Jan Hicks, a program leader for the LSU AgCenter, said the program in north Louisiana was called "My Own Business" and was conducted during May and June in an area that includes five of the poorest parishes of the state – which also are some of the poorest in the country.
Hicks said that program, which was facilitated by Cross, covered such areas as business operation and maintenance, Internet use in business, how to evaluate business ideas and how to write a business plan.
Although the results aren’t instant, Hicks said four of the 30 people who attended the Northeast Louisiana workshops already have started their own businesses. Even more of them will have a chance to attend an 11-week program at the University of Louisiana at Monroe beginning in September.
"A lot of people have ideas for a business, but before they access the Small Business Development Center or their local economic development department, they really need to have something on paper," LeBlanc said, adding, "Even if they don’t have a complete plan, it’s important to have as much as possible on paper.
"The workshops we offer mainly cover the business plan and market research. And as far as the research is concerned, the participants don’t have to reinvent the wheel, because a lot of the research has already been done."
Cross explained that one of the main lessons taught to the participants is the importance of the customer.
"We stress to them that they will need their customers to be advocates for the business," Cross explained. "It’s the customer who will tell other people about the business. So the customer should always be kept happy."
By keeping customers happy, businesses can keep advertising costs to a minimum, Cross said.
Emmanuel Alphonso from the Shell Beach community in St. Bernard Parish said that he hopes the information he gained at the Chalmette workshop will help him with his existing business.
"I started taking care of camps on a part-time basis back in the ‘80s, and now it’s my full-time business," Alphonso said, explaining he provides a variety of services, such as cleaning, mowing, washing boats and other chores, to camp owners. "I’m attending this business workshop just to find out if I’m doing it right."
LeBlanc said other issues covered in the LSU AgCenter workshops include decision making, electronic retailing, searching for capital and financial management.
One of the Chalmette workshop speakers was state Sen. Walter J. Boasso, the owner of Boasso American Corp., who told the group about the ups and downs he encountered while trying to get his business started.
LeBlanc said he has been asked to present the program in Plaquemines Parish next, but it can be conducted in any area of the state.
For additional information on workshops for entrepreneurs or other workshops to help with economic development in your community, contact your parish’s LSU AgCenter office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com.
Contacts: Deborah Cross at (225) 642-2044 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Scuddy LeBlanc at (985) 543-4129 or email@example.com
Writer: Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or email@example.com