HANCOCK - Community members looking to start a new business or revamp an existing business can participate in confidential business counseling sessions with Homer Productivity Business Consultant Roger Woods at the Finlandia University Jutila Center.
Although the Jutila Center originally opened as a business incubator in 2005, center staff realized there were people in the community looking to start a business and made a change to offer business counseling to the general public.
"People from the area needed advice and there really was no one," said Bonnie Holland, Jutila Center director.
Ashley Curtis/Daily Mining Gazette
Homer Productivity Business Consultant Roger Woods offers confidential business counseling sessions at the Finlandia University Jutila Center.
To fill the need, Finlandia, Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance and MTEC SmartZone asked Woods to come in to conduct the counseling.
"I had been working with some entrepreneurs, so they approached me to take over that role," said Woods.
During the session, Woods talks with businesses about business plan development to get people started in the right direction.
"One of the things he will talk to them about is what is the demand for that business," said Holland.
With Woods, entrepreneurs establish there is a market for the business, look at the competition and determine if they are offering a new niche product, Holland said.
"There's not a strict procedure. We focus on what do you need to know and what don't you know that you don't know," said Woods.
To help businesses make decisions and find available resources, the Jutila Center staff and Woods make recommendations on establishing a professional support team, including bankers, certified public accountants and attorneys.
"I like to be able to help them identify the people they need to talk to," said Woods. "With my connections and experience in the community, I can send them to the right people."
Once businesses have answered the questions, much of the information can be used to develop a full business plan.
"People are intimidated by the idea of a business plan, but it's a practical aspect of what you're going to be doing and how you're going to achieve that," said Holland.
Woods uses a guide from the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center to assist businesses. The guide is useful because it contains checklists and templates used to help entrepreneurs decide what licenses are required, how to register a name and the type of business to operate as.
Throughout the session, Woods hopes that businesses will realize they have decision making tools and resources available to them within the community.
"I find the two big areas business struggle are identifying and understanding the market, not marketing, but the market or who cares essentially and the second thing is the financials," Woods said.
Woods has been involved with the business counseling at Finlandia for five years and firmly believes in the role of the program in the community.
"I consider it successful because not only did some businesses start, some businesses didn't," said Woods. "We really look at all of the market, their capabilities, time and money and maybe it wasn't the right idea or the right time."
Businesses who work with Woods often come in thinking "how do I do it," but he recommends businesses consider "should I go do it?"
Typically these sessions are organized to help entrepreneurs decide if operating a business is feasible, but Woods also offers counseling sessions to existing businesses.
"The best scenario is somebody who is just thinking. Then we can really get them with their eyes wide open and thinking about all the aspects they need to worry about," said Woods. "(We can) adjust based on where they are."
Finlandia organizes each of the business counseling sessions and manages Woods' schedule. The next business counseling sessions are Friday and Nov. 28 at the Jutila Center.
The first business counseling session is free, however, businesses pay half of the consulting fee for the second session and the full fee for all subsequent sessions.
As a supplement to the counseling, Finlandia, in conjunction with the SmartZone, has also opened the Entrepreneur Support Center.
"He offers a really good service, but there was always this follow-up with the next questions," said Holland.
After a counseling session with Woods, business can set up appointments through Finlandia to work with other consultants in the community to discuss additional questions.
To schedule an appointment for business counseling or for assistance through the Entrepreneur Support Center, contact Liz Baumann at 487-7339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.