The BEST Center Advantage - Experienced advisers eager to support small business owners' aspirations

You have a dream of starting your own small business. You're bursting at the seams with ideas and possibilities, but you need someone to channel this energy in the right direction. It's time to call on The BEST Center at Genesee Community College and ask for Barbara Dietrich or Karen McFarland. They are experts in the small business world and they're excited about the opportunity to share advice confidentially and free of charge.

"Startups mean that people are on their own. They need a sounding board," said Dietrich, a Batavia consultant and former president/CEO of Dietrich Foods, Inc.

"That's what we are - sounding boards," echoed McFarland, owner/manager of KLM Business Services Inc. and former staffing manager for Robert Half International

Both Dietrich and McFarland have more than 20 years of corporate, small business and entrepreneurship experience. They have joined The BEST Center as advisers through the Small Business Development Center's (SBDC) satellite office on the Genesee Community College campus in Batavia.

Funded in part by the Small Business Administration, the SBDC delivers counseling, training, and industry-specific research to small business entrepreneurs. The BEST Center hired Dietrich and McFarland to advise potential small business owners in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

"Barb and Karen are committed to this and we're committed to giving them whatever they need," said Ray Chaya, director of The BEST Center and SBDC program supervisor. "They are both very good at what they do, and we want to make sure the community is aware of their services."

Dietrich has a history of creating businesses and managing them into success. Her "Sizzle Sauce" grew from a home production product to contract bottling in a few years to meet the demand in local supermarket chains. An equally successful Dietrich Salad Dressing line followed.

In 1998, she started Dietrich Consulting, providing marketing and advertising strategies to small businesses. She also hosts "Easy Living with Barb Dietrich" on WBEN 930 AM radio of Erie County, and is a former chairman of the board for the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.

"It is so important that those seeking advice about starting a small business find someone who has experience in the different aspects (of entrepreneurship)," Dietrich said. "I've run the gamut. I've had great success and I've experienced some pretty rough bumps in the road. Sooner or later, everyone has to go through the bumps." Dietrich noted that there are many facets of starting a small business.

"You have your initial idea, but you must ask 'Why are you better than your competitor? How are you going to market (your product)? What are your financial needs, payroll and cash flow projections?' It's overwhelming to the idea person. They need help to acquire the skill sets to get the business off the ground, for strategic planning and the long-term future."

She added that entrepreneurs must also address the "emotional side" of business. "There's a huge misconception that you start a business and within a year you're floating on a boat somewhere," she said. "It just doesn't work that way."

McFarland worked for Xerox Corp. as a financial and systems analyst for 13 years before starting her own business. Eventually, she supervised a staff of four employees.

"When I first started my own business, I took a buyout (from Xerox)," she recalled. "I bought all this wood furniture and had a fabulous office. But I just sat there. I assumed I would open my door and the people would flock in. It didn't happen. I forced myself to network, went to every free seminar and workshop." She said she gave out business cards in bunches and "forced herself to learn to talk to people."

In a former position as staffing manager with the Accountemps Division of Robert Half International, she was directly involved in recruiting and hiring. "Having been born and raised in this area, I know the economic situation. I firmly believe that if you take the time and make the effort - and are motivated to start your own business - you can be successful."

McFarland said that she, like Dietrich, has seen it all.

"I've been involved in small business startups, gone through employees, seasonality and know how to collect monies from people. I started as a sole proprietorship and after a couple years, went to an S-Corp. This is one of the ways I felt I could protect what I owned."

Dietrich and McFarland agreed that entrepreneurship means much more than a "9-to-5" philosophy. With that in mind, both said they will meet with people evenings or on Saturdays if necessary.

"People need to know how flexible we are," Dietrich said. "You don't have to come to The BEST Center between the hours of 9 and 5. Call and set up an appointment. We try to be as flexible as possible."

Advisers Dietrich and McFarland, with support from The BEST Center and local municipalities and agencies, say they are committed to helping people turn their business dreams into reality.

"We'll give you technical and practical advice and, more importantly, we stress the importance of being honest and ethical," Dietrich said. "Your reputation is all you have; it's just critical that people have faith in you."

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Editor's Note: A photograph of Barbara Dietrich (left) and Karen McFarland (right) the advisors of the new Small Business Development Center located at The BEST Center at Genesee Community College is available at the following Internet addresses: