“People, actual persons like you and me, are viable when they can stand on their own feet,” says E. F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. This book, despite being published in 1973 when the world looked very different, still sits on my desk as a consistent problem solving reference and a reminder to figure out ways to create accessibility to viability.
Let me share a truth with you: I do not know how to solve poverty or low-wages in Savannah (though the Economic Policy Institute offers some great suggestions). It is one of those problems so deeply rooted to the way society has been built that it often becomes a talking point rather than a social problem that everyone should bear responsibility for. But what I do know, and am confident enough to put in a newspaper for all to see and judge, is that people are most viable when they not only can stand on their own feet, but also when they can thrive.
So, what are those? For starters, it might be looking at how to create income differently. That, instead of vying for the limited or low-wage options available, it is creating your own autonomous option — your own opportunity.
Sound ambitious? Great. But now what? You need to know three things: what to do, how to do it, and how to fund it.
The what and how
Right under our noses exists The Savannah Entrepreneurial Center, the first stop for every person thinking about starting their own business. The center exists to increase local business creation and to support the economic empowerment of Savannah residents. It offers a multitude of courses, including the Micro and Small Business Development Program and the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Program. It also offers a free comprehensive course designed to provide the new business entrepreneur with the basic “how to” knowledge. This means how to not only start a business, but calculating the capital required, writing your business plan and financing it — your basic business foundation. Classes begin Aug. 29 and are held 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The other word
So how about that other F-word? Yea, that dirty word: financing. Capital is forever a barrier for getting things off the ground. From being unable to access traditional financing means to not knowing what is out there, accessing capital can feel like pushing the Sisyphean boulder, even more compounded by social circumstances. Thankfully, there are alternative means of financing.
On 2 p.m. Aug. 25, The Creative Coast will partner with the UGA Small Business Development Center to host the Small Business Financing Forum, a free workshop which will provide clear steps toward accessing necessary capital — a way to educate and meet a direct need on what is available. The location for this event is at Bull Street Labs, 2222 Bull St., Savannah.
The SBDC-UGA, which offers services both in Spanish and English, provides tools, training and resources to help small businesses grow and succeed, touching on everything from applied research to minority/women business to veterans.
“We exist to meet the need of the many people who need capital and deal with either misconceptions, being shut out from traditional options or lack a specific knowledge,” says Area Director David Lewis.
The session will touch on three distinct capital options: SBA 504, 7(a) loans, and alternative financing options. These are not the only three available, much like the SBDC is not the only organization that can help with financing, but they are the core options for most small businesses that lending institutions often have earmarked for small business owners.
“If you can walk into a bank and get a loan through a lender, you don’t need these options,” Lewis continues. “But for the majority of people, accessing that financial capital is just not possible.”
Lenders like Fred Crispen from United Midwest Savings Bank will be at the workshop to educate attendees on what there is to offer and also cut through the jargon to say “we need X, Y, Z” from you. It’s one thing to learn about the program, but it’s much better to hear the source say exactly they need.
New paths are possible, but unless you shine a light so people can see, they don’t know they can take it. And while these aren’t total solutions for what ails Savannah, they are ways in which people can realistically create their own solutions toward a new path.
Coco Papy is the community manager at Bull Street Labs and The Creative Coast, a nonprofit organization supporting local innovators that is made possible by the city of Savannah and the SEDA. Connect with Coco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
· Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered: https://www.amazon.com/Small-Beautiful-Economics-People-Mattered/dp/0061...
· Economic Policy Institute: www.epi.org/pay
· Savannah Entrepreneurial Center (SEC): https://www.facebook.com/pages/Savannah-Entrepreneurial-Center/131860213...
· SEC Micro and Small Business Development Program: http://savannahga.gov/index.aspx?NID=1319
· SEC Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) Program: http://savannahga.gov/index.aspx?NID=374
· SEC Business Education Course (free): www.savannahga.gov/FormCenter/SEC-11/Calendar-of-Events-Savannah-Entrepr...
· Small Business Development Center-UGA: www.georgiasbdc.org