Genesee's BEST Center Offers Free Advice to Entrepreneurs

The BEST Center at Genesee Community College, with support from the U.S. Small Business Administration, is well equipped to help enterprising Western New Yorkers realize their dreams.

That's the word from Ray Chaya, BEST Center director and supervisor of the Small Business Development Center's satellite office on the Genesee Campus.

"The whole idea is to help new entrepreneurs develop their business plan by guiding them through the process," Chaya said. "We help them in two ways -- we look at the general idea and plan, and we counsel the person individually."

Chaya said The BEST Center has recently hired two advisors with extensive "hands-on" experience in the business world to provide free services to those looking to start a new business or improve an existing one. The Genesee SBDC office is a satellite of the SUNY Brockport bureau, which is one of 23 SBDC regional centers in New York State.

Funded by the SBA, New York State and host campuses, the SBDC delivers business counseling, training and industry-specific research to small business entrepreneurs. Over the past 20 years, the SBDC has worked with more than 225,000 citizens, who have invested more than $2.6 billion in the state and have created or saved more than 107,000 jobs.

Jerry Kozlowski, dean of The BEST Center recognizes former Assemblyman Charles Nesbitt, who helped secure the appropriate funding to establish the SBDC office at The BEST Center, as well as the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce, the Orleans Economic Development Agency, Genesee County Economic Development Corporation, and the City of Batavia.

Ed Flynn, community development director for the City of Batavia, says the SBDC is an "invaluable" vehicle for small business people to move their ideas along.

"Because we don't have the resources to write business plans, we rely on the SBDC," Flynn said. "Now that an office is at The BEST Center, an individual can go anytime to get services. It's great that it is in Batavia where we offer our loan program and microenterprise grant and have a lot of small businesses."

The Genesee SBDC office serves GLOW or Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties Chaya said. "We will schedule appointments for days or evenings, including Saturdays, at suitable locations such as Chamber of Commerce offices, banks, EDC offices, city halls or at the campus centers," he added.

While all entrepreneurs have the motivation and interest to start their own business, not everyone has all the "skill sets that they need," Chaya explained. "Maybe he or she is not a real good salesperson. We look at weaknesses and strengths and plan ways for them to get those skills."

Chaya said the SBDC can meet people's needs in a variety of ways.

"For a lot of people, it's just getting the business loan. For others, it's about looking at things long-term, understanding cash flow and taxes, learning the ins and outs of hiring employees."

He noted that SBDC advisors will "consult, encourage, reflect and advise but they won't do all the work for their clients." They will, however, make sure the entrepreneur has acquired a solid attorney, lending institutions and financial consultant or CPA, he added.

SBDC advisors can tap into state and federal resources to provide data about a specific product or how to market that product. Advisors give their clients a "realistic picture" of the business environment and focus on the entrepreneur's personality to explore "the intrinsic things" that spell the difference between success and failure, Chaya said.

"Our advisors are small business people, themselves. They have struggled and have been successful. They have empathy for what it means to rely on yourself and control your own destiny."

Chaya said the SBDC fills in the gaps by building relationships. "We can give them what they're lacking," he said. "And our advisors will stay with that person as long as necessary. It's not a one-time thing and we're done."

The statewide SBDC network is a fully integrated and interactive small business consulting and training delivery system. The state's SBDC Central Library in Albany supports the system with up-to-date business information and electronic search mechanisms.

For more information about the Genesee satellite office or to make an appointment with a counselor, call 585-345-6868.

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Editor's Note: A second press release regarding the two new SBDC advisors will follow immediately.