To ensure that a small business will survive, know the basics.
On Saturday, over 60 local small-business owners and entrepreneurs flocked to Dwight Hall and Linsly-Chittenden Hall to participate in the inaugural New Haven Entrepreneur Development Conference organized by the Elmseed Enterprise Fund and JUNTA. The event, which ran from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., featured a keynote speech from School of Management professor Constance Bagley, bilingual instructional seminars and a community resource bazaar, meant to educate a crowd of local professionals — a large number of whom were Hispanic — on the fundamentals of business management.
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More than a dozen local banks and financial groups, including New Alliance Bank, Nationwide Insurance, SCORE consulting, Community Account and Aid Services, and the New Haven Public Library, led discussions and offered their services to local business owners. Translators and bilingual volunteers ensured that everyone present could learn from each other and cover the basics of starting businesses, Elmseed Conference Coordinator Lynn Wang ’11 said.
Eli Bildner ’10, chief executive officer of the student-founded microcredit organization Elmseed, described the conference as a way to give business training to New Haven entrepreneurs, allowing them to improve their skills and be treated seriously. Bildner and Laura Huizar ’06, program coordinator for economic development for JUNTA, a social action group geared toward assisting local immigrants, said the conference provided a platform for networking and bringing Latino-owned and other businesses together.
Bildner explained that the idea for the conference was inspired in part by some of the difficulty that Elmseed experienced during its client recruitment. Similarly, small business owners also can have trouble finding and retaining clients and locating resources, such as capital funding, account management and legal advice.
During the morning, three workshops, conducted in both English and Spanish, focused on covering legal issues, financial skills and expansion strategy. Dennis Brown, 60, vice president of the Connecticut Community Investment Corporation, led the seminar on small business expansion and risk management. He noted that roughly 20 percent of small businesses succeed in the long run, pointing out that fundamental knowledge of basic business operations will help companies stay out of the majority.
He encouraged business owners to network extensively: “Create a really good team and do not be afraid to ask questions.”
The attendees said they had heard about the conference from a variety of sources and were pleased with the event and its message. The conference reinforced business practices that people did not have the opportunity to master.
“Most of this I knew, but never practiced,” 39-year-old Jose Hernandez, the owner of B&A Masons in Hamden, said. “I want to learn how to run a business the right way.”
Ivan Salvador, vice president of the Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce of New York, stressed the importance of events promoting small businesses, especially those owned by minorities.
“The entrepreneurial Latino community is growing,” Salvador said. “Many are trying to go from employee to employer.”
The community resource fair at the end of the conference gave business owners an avenue to obtain support from a variety of skill development groups — ranging from English tutors to more general consulting services — and presented displays for owners looking to expand or stabilize their current enterprises.