The Jamestown region has experienced an increase in small business development over the past year, leading local business advisors to predict a “big year” in 2023 for small businesses.
Asked if the Small Business Development Center at Jamestown Community College has seen an increase in small business developments over the past year, Dr. Courtney Curatolo, principal, said “without discussion” SBDC has “absolutely” saw an increase in small business startups and developments in the region during 2022.
“We’ve had a lot of people come in now that we’re getting past COVID-19, and people are really getting boots on the ground with their ideas and shaping those ideas into startups.” Curatolo said.
Based on data collected by the SBDC, Curatolo believes multiple factors have contributed to the growth of the region’s small businesses over the past year.
One of the main reasons Curatolo said there has been an increase in small businesses is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If anyone has been laid off because of the pandemic or any other reason in the last couple of years, a lot of them have said, ‘You know what, this is my chance to go into business for myself. I’m going to go after that idea I’ve had in my head for a while. she said. “These people are making the leap into small business, and many of them are very successful.”
Curatolo said the end of the year and the start of the new year is another contributing factor to increased interest in people starting small businesses. She said the SBDC helps “Too many customers” during January and February as they implement their New Year’s resolutions to start new businesses.
As small businesses grow in the region, Curatolo said the SBDC is available to help small business owners become successful. She explained that the SBDC is a free service for any small business with fewer than 500 employees.
Across New York State, there are 22 Small Business Development Centers. The Local SBDC serves businesses in Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. While Curatolo said most of the local offices are located in Jamestown, she said the SBDC has field offices in both Dunkirk and Olean. The SBDC is also planning to expand its operations to Allegany County in 2023.
“We have four certified business advisors and they can help with anything from developing a business plan, financial projections, creating a marketing plan, helping to launch a website, implementing e-commerce on a website. Curatolo said.
SBDC also has an online business academy with a variety of courses that are free to view at any time. SBDC also offers two paid certification courses in social media and entrepreneurship fundamentals.
Some of the SBDC’s free online courses came out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Curatolo said the SBDC realized that many local businesses either didn’t have a website or didn’t have a website that was properly designed for e-commerce.
“They weren’t ready to go back to a technological world for their business at the onset of COVID-19,” she said. “We developed two classes that we offer for free, they show how to create a website on different platforms, how to implement e-commerce from different platforms on your website.”
In addition to SBDC’s online courses, Curatolo said the organization also offers one-on-one training opportunities.
Going into 2023, Curatolo said yes “really excited,” as she believes 2023 will be one “big year” for small businesses in the region. According to Curatolo, the SBDC is planning to take “Back to Basics” after the COVID-19 pandemic by prioritizing business expansion opportunities and making a difference in local communities.
“Before COVID-19, we were really doing a lot of outreach in different communities, working with a lot of minorities, and we had a lot of social ideas coming up in different libraries across the region.” she said. “Our goal in 2023 is to really go back to these ideas we had about COVID-19. Our boots will be on the ground instead of in our remote offices, our homes and our office space.”
Curatolo said it is important for the SBDC to be “out in the community” and showcase the variety of services available for free to small businesses in the region.
While Curatolo believes that the year 2023 will be one “bullying” year for the SBDC and local small businesses, she acknowledged that small businesses continue to face many challenges.
Between state legislation, legal issues, state and federal restrictions, tax information and human resources concerns, Curatolo said small business owners often have to manage many concerns at once.
“I think the biggest issue is that as a business owner, you have to wear 10 different hats and you have to know a little bit about each of them.” she said. “The good thing is that our advisors can really help in different areas.”
While every small business may not be fully knowledgeable or fully equipped to handle every aspect of the business, Curatolo said the SBDC offers services to help small business owners navigate every process of local business development.
Curatolo added that the SBDC has a business permit center to help Chautauqua County businesses work through the process of obtaining the necessary permits and licenses required to own and operate businesses. She explained that it can be difficult for businesses to stay up to date with the latest laws, restrictions and legislation regarding the business community. To alleviate this stress, the SBDC works with local businesses to raise awareness of any changes that need to be made in order for businesses to stay in compliance with local, state and federal restrictions.
For small businesses interested in the free services offered by the SBDC, Curatolo said the Jamestown location website (www.sbdcjcc.org) and the online business academy website (sbdcbusinessacademy.com/) are places to go. good to start.
“They can call us or they can go to our website,” Curatolo said. “We have a lot of resources on our website; we are also active on Facebook and Linked-In, so they can always go to our Facebook page.”
Curatolo said the SBDC is currently putting an emphasis on using social media as a “critical part” of the small business community. She explained that social media has provided an opportunity for the SBDC that “showcase” various small businesses in the region.
While everything the SBDC does to help small businesses is confidential, Curatolo said the organization can help local businesses with some marketing opportunities on the SBDC’s Facebook page and other social media platforms.
“I don’t want to be the community’s best kept secret,” she said. “I want everyone to know that we are here to help. We are free and confidential and have so many experts on our team who are there to help.”