Podcast: How to Start a Business & Other Small Business Development Center Resources
In this episode of Money Smarts, a podcast of Summit Credit Union, we're talking about resources to help you start a business, manage your business so that you can grow it, and then help grow your leaders. We recently sat down with Julie Wood, the education program manager and Youth Entrepreneur Camp director for UW-Madison Small Business Development Center, who gave insight into a free online class on the first steps to starting your business and other resources that can help you turn your small business dreams into a reality.
AMY CROWE: Welcome to Money Smarts, a podcast of Summit Credit Union, where we connect people and inspire action to create member and community wealth. As a not-for-profit financial cooperative, Summit Credit Union exists to improve our members' lives and help them reach their dreams. Our Money Smarts podcast is just one way we engage members in the community in conversations about money that inspire you to spend smart, save more, and take action to build a richer life.
I'm Amy, a financial education specialist at Summit Credit Union, and your host for our time today. At Summit, we are a proud supporter of small businesses. Whether you're starting a business or expanding it, investing in new inventory or office equipment, Summit can help you reach your business goals together. Summit often partners with local organizations that support growing small businesses in our community to provide education and trusted advice, so entrepreneurs can make wise financial decisions.
We're delighted to have Julie Wood, the education program manager, and Youth Entrepreneur Camp director for the UW Madison Small Business Development Center on our show today. She's the author of the book More Than a Lemonade Stand, the e-book You're Never Too Young to Start a Business, and the owner of e-Seedling, specializing and cultivating tomorrow's entrepreneurs. Julie and I have crossed paths at several local entrepreneur events like the Wisconsin Women Entrepreneur Day and a program called GIRLpreneur that the Badgerland Council of Girl Scouts hosted for over 100 middle school girls.
We wanted to bring Julie into the studio today to talk about how the Small Business Development Center can help entrepreneurs and small business owners. Well, welcome, Julie. Tell us a little bit about the Small Business Development Center, or the SBDC, as people call it.
JULIE WOOD: Okay. Well, the SBDC is a nationwide network, and so, all 50 states have them. In Wisconsin, they have them at most of the four-year universities. So ours is at UW Madison in the School of Business. And really we're an outreach center within the School of Business. So we serve the public more than like people who would be your traditional college students or whatever.
And so people can come in, and they can get business consulting, and that's actually funded by the Small Business Administration. So that is actually at no cost. And so if you have a problem with your business, or you just want to hire somebody, or you need help with anything, then you can come in and meet with one of our consultants. And then we also have non-credit continuing ed classes, so we can serve a greater population in our area, which is Dane, Sauk, and Columbia counties.
AMY: So there's actually a Small Business Development Center in the Milwaukee Area as well?
JULIE: Yep. UW-Milwaukee has one right downtown.
AMY: So for our Milwaukee branches, just to let you know that they can utilize that as a resource.
AMY: But really anyone in the state of Wisconsin who is a Summit member or not a Summit member can go to any one of those SBDC centers.
JULIE: Yep. Yep. Mm-hmm.
AMY: Well, tell us a little bit about, and I've been to your website, and there's three core things that you do on a day-to-day basis, you and the team over there at the SBDC. What are those three things?
JULIE: So we have the consulting. We have three people that are business consultants, and they help meet with those people. But really, the three different things that we do are start, manage, and grow. So we help people start a business, manage their business so that they can grow it, and then help grow their leaders. So, you know, when you're starting out, you need to know about, more about business fundamentals, things like that, financing. That's why we help them get their financials together, so they can come to Summit and have, you know, a good base to talk with you about.
Then we have our Manage Your Business classes. We have a whole Financial Management Series that helps people understand their financials, understand cash flow, all of that kind of stuff. We have a Digital Marketing Series that, that's the one we change the most because it's such a changing industry. You know, things change all the time in the digital marketing, but it's a super important thing to do now. You know, have a good website, have SEO, all of that kind of stuff.
And then we also have several Grow Your Leader classes. So, you know, when businesses start out, they really don't have any supervisors or whatever, but then as they grow, you know, maybe five employees or whatever, then they might have somebody that they want to promote as a supervisor. So we have a Launch into Leadership class. It's a one-day class. And then we have a series called Supervisory Leadership Series, so it kind of helps them grow.
AMY: So if somebody is thinking about turning a hobby into a business, and they've been dabbling with whatever that might be, or they have a grand idea of, you know, social entrepreneurship or serving the community in some way, because all small businesses serve the community in some way, right?
JULIE: Right. Mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah.
AMY: It's a service industry, no matter which industry it is. You've created a new online course, and tell us a little bit about that.
JULIE: Well, it's called First Steps to Starting Your Business, and it's free, and it's available anytime, anywhere. So you can take it at any time. We had an in-person class, times change, people go online, and they Google “how do I start a business?” So they don't want to come downtown, pay for parking, hassle with all of that, and then attend an in-person class. So we, Michelle Somes-Booher and I, she's our director, we sat down and we kind of outlined what do we want to have people know when they're first starting their business? So we built this online class. We're very proud of it.
And so it has three sections. The first section is Entrepreneurial Mindset. So you kind of go in and look at, what are the things I really need to think about as a person to be an entrepreneur? And then it also looks at your personal situation, like my family, you know, it's going to take time, so am I going to have the support? It's going to take money, so do I have the support for that? And it has little assessments along the way, so you can kind of, you know, test yourself and see, you know, where your strengths are, where your weaknesses are.
And then, at the end, it gives you feedback and says, here are the things we think you need to work on, here are the programs that you might want to take, and so it guides them along the way.
AMY: That's really great because you were really filling a need in the community to be able to have some sort of online resource for people to be able to do at home. I think that you and I were talking once that you can literally do this any time at home.
JULIE: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yep. And since it's free, you can access it at any time.
AMY: Is it mobile? Can you do it on your phone too?
JULIE: Yep. You can do it on your phone. I haven't tried it on my phone, but I'm sure you can.
AMY: Awesome, iPad, you know, wherever.
JULIE: Yeah. Right.
AMY: Wherever and whenever you're doing it.
AMY: And so, have you seen a good response to this online course so far?
JULIE: We actually have. We have over 100, I think about 120 people that have taken it since March.
AMY: That's amazing.
JULIE: Yeah. And that's just in our county region. We actually have several states of people that have taken it, and actually several countries. So it's really interesting.
AMY: It'll really be interesting impactually with the SBDC here in Wisconsin.
JULIE: Right. Mm-hmm.
AMY: I love that. Well, what's the website if somebody wants to go check out this online course?
JULIE: So the website is firststeps.sbdc.wisc.edu.
AMY: And what's the Small Business Development Center website?
JULIE: That is sbdc, like Small Business Development Center, wisc, w-i-s-c, which is Wisconsin, and then, .edu for education.
AMY: So you were talking a little bit about the entrepreneurial mindset in this online course, and I know that you and I have talked about, you know, what is an entrepreneurial mindset? How does somebody recognize that they have an entrepreneurial mindset? Tell us a little bit about what that mindset means and what the characteristics of that is.
JULIE: Yeah. So one of the things is, I think it's natural for some people. Like, you know, that entrepreneurial mindset is natural, but I, it can definitely be taught. I think people just don't know sometimes what it is. So one of the things is looking at problems as opportunities.
JULIE: Yeah. So like if you see a problem in the, at home, at, you know, kids might see one at school, or at work, and you might be thinking, hmm, how can I improve that, or how can I make it better? You know, how can I solve this? And I think the most successful businesses solve a problem. And so if you start looking at things and saying, how can I solve this? You know, sometimes it takes some creativity. It takes some thinking, and that's, I just was on this webinar on creativity, and they said creativity is like a muscle, and if you don't use it, you kind of lose it. So as you kind of think about things, and I think the entrepreneurial mindset is a similar thing.
It also is a very like can-do attitude. Like you have to kind of think, I can do this. You have to believe in yourself. You have to be confident. Otherwise, you know, you're not going to succeed in that idea or whatever. You also have to have resilience because if you read anything about entrepreneurs, most of them have failed.
AMY: A lot.
JULIE: A lot. And they get up, and they go again. And that's a huge thing for entrepreneurs. And I think sometimes when you're running a business, especially when you're first starting out, and you're by yourself, you're going to make lots of mistakes. You're going to hopefully learn from them and go on, but that's, you know, you have to realize that's part of the journey.
AMY: Well, and I think the SBDC offers a really safe and comfortable place to ask the questions that you may feel are questions that you should already know.
JULIE: Yeah. I think that's probably true. And especially, you know, when you're taking this First Steps class, there's a lot of like these little self-assessments in there, and a lot of like interactive things where you can kind of like, you know, which is the option that fits you best, and learn from it. And that's a super safe environment because only you are going to see that.
And then you can say, mm, this is maybe where I need help or where I, you know, need to go find somebody. And that is another thing for entrepreneurs that they really need to think about is, we talked about this a little bit,AMY and I, about strengths, and looking at your strengths, and then what are your weaknesses, and finding people to help you fill in those weaknesses.
AMY: Yeah. You told me a strength finder? What is that?
JULIE: Yeah. So Gallup is the company, G-a-l-l-u-p. And they have a strengths finder. You, they have a website, they have a book. But you can take these strengths finder, you can do it online, and then it'll give you your top, you can get like your top 10, top 30, all that. But top five is usually what people think about. And look at your top five strengths. And what it does is it puts them in different categories, and then you can say, oh, this category I'm really strong in, this category I'm not. I need to find somebody to help me with that particular category.
AMY: Because it is all about finding your tribe, right?
AMY: It's finding the people who can help you achieve and get you to where you want to be.
JULIE: Right, right.
AMY: And not being afraid to ask the questions or to ask for help. I think women in general sometimes feel like we need to take everything on and that we should know everything.
JULIE: Yeah. Right.
AMY: And so, it's definitely one of those things where I think that that strength finder can help you verbalize and put words to what you need help with.
JULIE: Right. That, yeah, perfect.
AMY: And I think that, and you said that was Gallup?
AMY: Does that, is that something you can just Google?
JULIE: Yep. Yep.
AMY: Awesome. So I wanted to get back to some of the classes that the SBDC offers. And some of them are free, but then some of them have costs to them as well. What's the average cost of a class and how long are you invested in that class?
JULIE: A half-day class is, I think it's like $149. And then a full-day class is like $275 or something like that. And then the reason we have them like as half-days and full-days is people don’t want to be away from their business for long. So any time we have a series, it's either a series one week apart of half-day classes or full-day classes. The leadership ones are usually full-day classes, and the other ones are usually half. But people don't want to be away from their business that long, so we try to just do them once a week for like three or four weeks.
AMY: And I think it's an interesting thing too because you want to get a little bit of education, and then you want to take it home and work on it.
AMY: And then maybe provide that feedback or questions that you might have back to the SBDC?
JULIE: Right, or the instructors. Because our instructors are, they're not like college professors. They're like people in the community who do that as a profession. So like, for example, we have Summit come in and do our finance, financing class for our Biz Smart Series. And, you know, you're the ones that are working with the people out in the community, so you know what to tell them, you know. And that's what we do for all of our classes. We have the community professionals who are teaching our classes.
AMY: Well, and somebody who's just thinking about, hey, I have this hobby, or I have this skill, or I'm crafty, or maybe I want to start a business, and it can be anything from social entrepreneurship to, you know, antiquing, to the food service, or anything like that, just the sky is the limit. I think that there's just some amazing incubators in Madison, helping people thrive and being able to get them the funding for their business.
But when someone comes to you and says, okay, I have this hobby, how do I start separating out my business? There's the personal side, there's the business side. Are there one or two tips that you could give folks that you see frequently of somebody who's like, I don’t know if I'm opening a business account yet, but...
JULIE: So, you know, opening a business account is kind of scary for some people. But the one thing that you do want to do is make sure that you're keeping track of anything you're doing for that business separate, even if you're using your personal account. And I think, Amy, you mentioned, you know, maybe having a savings account and putting that money that you're going to use for your business in that savings account. The other thing that does is it shows the bank that you are working on it and that you are actually bootstrapping or putting your own effort into getting that business going.
AMY: Yeah. The credit union's business lenders, that's one of the big things that we look at. And then we recommend in the class that we assist-teach for you too, is, you know, you have to have the business plan, you have to have some skin in the game in terms of how much money have you been putting into your business? How have you been bootstrapping that? Have you been using a home equity loan? Have you been using personal savings? Have you been using your personal line of credit?
And I think that's when people can come to the credit union and kind of get some advice as to, you know, when do I start that business account? And they can ask you that too, like I've been kind of doing this, and I've been making some money, but is it really a business?
JULIE: So usually when we say you, when you start making money, you should have a separate account. So like if they're going to start some of those expenses on their own, then if, as long as you keep track of them, that's fine. But then as soon as you start getting a little more serious, you know, you really need to get your EIN number, and you need to get your business tax registration and all of that kind of stuff with the state. And then get your business account.
AMY: And you have resources to kind of walk people through what they need to do to actually start that business.
JULIE: Yeah. So we have a startup packet that's really helpful, and that's actually one of the resources that's available at the end of the First Steps class when you, at the end, we sort of give you a plan and say, this is your plan of action. You know, you need to work on this, this, and this, or you should take this class. And then we have a startup packet that they can actually download and use. And it has these checklists in them, and so it's really helpful for a starting business.
AMY: Well, and I think anyone too, who's using their personal finances to kind of bootstrap their business doesn't want to be looking through their checking account, looking through their gas and their groceries to find the random office expenses or the website fee that they might have done three months ago when they started their website.
AMY: And it really is, you know, at Summit, we can have another checking account under the main account number, you can separate out checking accounts, you know, create that business account once you have the legal business name.
JULIE: Right, right.
AMY: There's some squishiness there. But it is definitely having a conversation with your loved ones, having a conversation with, what are the priorities in your life if you're going to start this business.
JULIE: Right, right.
AMY: You know, how much, can I take $140 and take this class? I don't exactly know where it's going to end up because I'm not quite ready to do all the other stuff, but, you know, what's your plan in terms of saving your personal finances, personal money to then educate yourself by taking some of your classes?
You know, maybe your two years away from actually starting your business, but you want to invest in yourself. You want to say, I'm going to take money out of my budget and invest in myself and my education, and I'm going to do that through the SBDC. And so I need to take this class, this class, this class, and I'm going to do it in this time period, this time period, and this time period. And that's creating a plan for yourself before you even start the business.
JULIE: Right, right, which is super important.
AMY: And so there's really this marriage between the personal finances and the business finances.
JULIE: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
AMY: Awesome. So tell us a little bit about the Youth Entrepreneur Camp. I know that that's something that the SBDC does, but give me a little bit of the background and then, you know, what does that camp look like? Because you're really inspiring kids to think about being entrepreneurs at a very young age, which I think is amazing.
JULIE: Yeah. So we have a five-day commuter day camp. So they don't stay overnight. And they come to the UW-Madison campus, so it's in Granger Hall. It's for middle school age kids, which I think is a perfect age to learn about entrepreneurship because they're in, middle school is sort of a transition age. It's like you're going from an elementary to in between high school, and, you know, like where do I fit in? There's a lot of changes that are going on in kids at that age. So it's a really great time to have them build some confidence with using their unique strengths and talents to create a business.
And so our camp kind of includes three main things. So they create their own business idea, which is really fun. And then we have this business game simulation that we play, where they make a product, they run a small business in teams, they're budgeting, planning, selling their product, creating a little bit of a financial statement. So it's kind of an experiential simulation. And then the third thing is we run this lemonade stand. So that's in Granger Hall, and it's become quite popular because we've been doing it for ten years now. And all the staff say, when is the lemonade stand? I've got to make sure I bring my cash that day because...
AMY: Oh, my gosh. That's so awesome.
JULIE: And so...
AMY: You have a captive audience for profit.
JULIE: Yeah. Right, right, right. But the funds don't go to the kids. It goes to a scholarship fund. So they're really raising money for the Youth Camp Scholarship Fund. And they get really creative. Like, you know, sometimes we have slushies. Last year, we had yellow and green, or gold and green slushies for the Packers, and...
AMY: Oh my god. I, you should have called me because I love the Packers.
JULIE: Yeah. They went online. And then, and so Aaron Rogers was our spokesperson, right?
AMY: Oh, funny.
JULIE: Yeah, and so we had got lemonade, and we had yellow mustaches on a straw. And then, they got their picture taken with Aaron because we had a like life-size Aaron that we printed. Oh, my god. It was so funny.
AMY: Oh, my gosh.
JULIE: So they get super creative. I mean, it's really fun. The lemonade stand is fun.
AMY: Well, and your entrepreneur camp, you wrote a book about how to create a camp.
JULIE: Yeah. So what happened was in, we, originally, when we started the camp, so it's, this is the 19th year. Next year will be the 20th. I want to have a big reunion thing. And we had hired a person to come and teach the camp. So in 2008 when the budget got slashed, our director at the time said, we're going to have to cancel the camp. And I was like, that's my favorite thing all year. So being the entrepreneurial mindset, I was like, okay, well, I need to fix this problem, right? So I said, I'll write the curriculum, and my background is in education, and so that we can teach it in-house. So in 2008, I rewrote it, and then we started that.
Well, then I started getting all these people call me and say, hey, how did you get this camp started? What did you, you know, what's your curriculum, all of this stuff? And I'd say, well, we, I don’t know, I, you know, I'd just kind of give them short answers, and I'd send them a schedule of what we do and stuff like that. And they're like, well, I need to know more. So I said, well, maybe I'll write a book and teach them how to do it, right? So it's kind of like a how-to guide. All the steps in the process that I kind of go through to plan and implement and what we teach in the camp. And so it's like a do-it-yourself kind of guide.
Well, then people are like, well, do you have some of the curriculum? So I went to our director at the time and said, can I like, you know, re-package this and re-change it and then, you know, sell it? So I have a company called e-Seedling for cultivating tomorrow's entrepreneurs, and there's about 30 schools all over the world that are using the curriculum to teach. And they teach it as like, some of them will just do the Biz Ops game. That's the game that we play in like a club. Like there are some Girl Scouts that are actually using it. And...
AMY: Oh, that's fantastic.
JULIE: ...yeah. And then they, or they might use it for an intro to entrepreneurship even at a high school level.
AMY: High school, yeah.
JULIE: Mm-hmm. So.
AMY: That's awesome. Well, congratulations because that's sort of like you've created a worldwide impact with...
JULIE: Well, thanks. I'd like to get it out there a little more, but, you know.
AMY: Oh, my gosh. I mean, really, like, Julie, you've gone world. You know, like that's just great. I love that you've been able to package that entrepreneurial mindset into a book to be able to have other people implement. I think that that’s fantastic and that that's, you know, homegrown in Wisconsin is absolutely amazing. The work that you do at the SBDC along with your team and Michelle is amazing because, I have to offer you congratulations because your SBDC center in Madison was given the Wisconsin Center of the Year Award.
JULIE: Yeah. So for 2017, we were Center of the Year. And what they do is they have all of the centers in Wisconsin vote, and we were voted the Center of the Year. So that was really exciting. We just had an event in Milwaukee where, you know, we were awarded, and so it was exciting.
AMY: Exciting and gratifying for all the work that you're doing.
AMY: I mean, there's so many small businesses in the state of Wisconsin that are really growing our economy.
AMY: And for you to be able to provide the services that you do from the, I have a hobby, and I'm not exactly sure, I'm in that squishy spot, when do I do this, to, hey, I have somebody in my business who's helping me who's on my management team, but they just need a little bit of help, to a class on QuickBooks, right?
AMY: Amazing work that you're doing. Thank you so much. I am so glad that Summit is able to partner with you and to share some of our expertise in terms of business lending and personal finance, budgeting, thing, different things like that with some of your classes. So thank you for partnering with us on that because we feel passionate.
JULIE: Oh, and thank you for sharing your expertise with our audience too.
AMY: I know that our business lenders really love it because they want to set people up for success in terms of being able to give them the funding that they need to grow their business. So being able to partner with an amazing organization like yours is really something that we're passionate about, and we really enjoy doing that. So I just want to say thank you so much for your time today. And I'm hoping that those of us, those of you who are listening have some great tips and tools, but what's the website that they can visit the Small Business Development Center at again?
JULIE: So it's sbdc.wisc.edu, or you can Google UW-Madison SBDC.
AMY: Julie, thank you so much for sharing with us today.
JULIE: Thank you,AMY, for having me.
AMY: Join us next time for our Money Smarts podcast to get more tips, tools, and advice on how you can own your money. Discover more money smarts at summitcreditunion.com. Like us on our Facebook page, tweet us, or pin something from our Pinterest boards. That's all for today. Thanks for listening and remember, it's your money, own it.