The University of Wisconsin School of Business mentors business owners and entrepreneurs to help local businesses grow and improve.
Small Business Development Center has been open since 1979 and helps current and aspiring business owners by giving them information through classes and one-on-one consultation.
Michelle Somes-Booher, business consultant and director of the center, said the main purpose is to provide local assistance.
It isn’t easy to define a small business, Somes-Booher said. According to the Small Business Administration, there are government guidelines to define a small business by industry, Somes-Booher said.
Because the definition is industry-specific, a manufacturer with 100 employees can still be considered a small business based on that industry, Somes-Booher said.
The center’s average consulting client has between six to 10 employees and is under $1 million in revenue, Somes-Booher said.
“We saw 361 businesses last year and we helped start 32 businesses,” Somes-Booher said. “Our clients have gained over $9.6 million in capital.”
There are three basic services the center provides.
The center hosts the Wisconsin Business Answer Line, a free service for anyone in the state, which accept calls and emails about quick business questions, Somes-Booher said.
“For example, we can help if someone ever wants to start a food cart and they don’t know about the regulations,” Somes-Booher said.
The center also provides free not-for-credit courses for current and aspiring business owners. Courses range from financial management to digital media to leadership development, Somes-Booher said.
These courses are set up similarly to seminars and workshops. Classes may run for half-a-day, a full day or a series of days. The cheapest class is $35 and most expensive can cost up to $300, Somes-Booher said.
These options allow small businesses to avoid spending too much money or time on courses when it could be put directly into their business instead.
Somes-Booher said the heart of the center, however, is their free one-on-one consultations for small businesses.
“We’ll work with people to help them improve efficiency, grow a business, start a business, and we don’t charge for the service because we pay for it through our federal tax dollars,” Somes-Booher said.