Small business-Big help
Whether starting a small business, wanting to expand one or trying to shore an existing business up, Ethan Migliori is there to help.
As the director of the regional office of the Small Business Development Center, his expertise in business startups and growth can hardly be matched anywhere, because he has done it himself and knows a lot of pitfalls.
"When I started my first business I made a lot of mistakes," he said sitting in his office in the SAC Building on the USU Eastern campus on Tuesday morning. "With having done that I find that what I do now has given me a whole different world of knowledge and has taught me more than I ever would have experienced in businesses on my own."
Migliori has an MBA from the University of Phoenix, getting there by attending the College of Eastern Utah for a two years and then two more years at Southern Utah University. But he is not one of those that only got the education and no practical experience. He worked his way through school doing various kinds of jobs including installing granite counter tops while he lived in Utah County and attended the University of Phoenix. It was at that time when he realized that there were some needs in that industry that a new business could address. Consequently he began his journey into startup businesses. The first he said he made the mistakes on. The second he corrected many of those mistakes and it became so successful that he was approached by a large company who wanted to buy him out. He sold it and moved back to eastern Utah where he really wanted to live.
"People ask me how come I ended up in this job," he said. "But I'm in a good place. Right now I am where I want to be."
The SBDC in Price is one of 14 offices run by the state to help small businesses in Utah. Their mission as stated is to "Strengthen Utah's economic fabric and quality of the life by facilitating the success and prosperity of small business endeavors."
"This program has been in place since the 1980s," stated Migliori. "It was started because the Small Business Administration was noticing that banks were not lending money to people for small businesses like they thought they should. When they started asking questions why, banks were telling them that many who applied just didn't have the right stuff when they came to apply for loans. That's when the concept of these centers came about."
The centers are there to give new business startups the tools to get the capital they need to operate.
"When I talk with potential business owners I find many of them are lacking one or more things they need to get loans and startup cash," said Migliori. "Those things are critical."
He went on to say that he finds often people will not have a business plan (or a good one), they don't understand or have any ideas of what their financials will be and they often don't know how to market the business they want to start.
"Banks look at a lot of things when they are considering business loans," he stated. "Sometimes one thing can stop the loan. They look at a person's background, their skill set and their credit history. The people asking for the money look at the cash as a loan while the bank looks at it as an investment."
He says that often a person who has been a worker at an enterprise may have a good idea for a business startup but have little or no management experience or business experience under their belts. This makes it tough for people in that position to get started.
Migliori says a good business plan is a must. A person making application for a loan should understand what they see themselves as being (what kind of business, priorities, reach, in a very clear way) and what bankers are looking for in the investment they would be placing their money in.
"In the last year a lot of those that want to start a business have had to find their own financing because banks have buckled down on who they will loan to."
Money sometimes comes from personal loans from investors or people they know. Sometimes startups turn to venture capital but getting that can be tough too.
"In Utah last year 7,000 individuals applied to venture capitalists for money to start up businesses. Only seven were funded," he stated.
Migliori also said there is a lot of logistics that can be difficult, especially in places like eastern Utah.
"For one finding a building to put a business in can be difficult, depending on the kind of business it is," he stated. "If you want a retail business it isn't as hard to find a building. Of course that would depend on the kind of retail business it is. Finding a building to put something like a large manufacturing endeavor in is much more difficult. It just depends, but the logistics can be an imposing problem to solve."
Migliori says that service businesses are the easiest logistically because they can operate out of almost anywhere. Retail businesses are often easy to find locations for but "harder to keep in business."
The time that Migliori and his assistant Jennifer Baletka put in getting someone on the road to starting a business varies, but he estimates it to be six to eight hours of time initially. Then they usually "coach" the business along for about six to eight months.
At present he has about 30 clients (and actually that is about average) he is working with and that is "about the limit of what he can do" at this point.
But the center isn't just about startups either. Present businesses that want to expand or need help can get advice at the center as well.
"We will help businesses that exist to expand, because then they hire more employees which is good for the local economy," said Migliori. "But in the last while we have been working a lot with local businesses on just survival mode."
The down economy has taken its toll everywhere and eastern Utah is no exception. But there is hope and the Business Expansion and Retention Program that is being run by Delynn Fielding as the economic development director of Carbon County has really helped Migliori in his charge too.
"At this point I just don't see how we could be successful without them," he said.
It's also hard to talk about business without discussing the world wide web. In this day and age it is pervasive and Migliori says that local businesses should take advantage of what it offers. But he also says it is kind of a two edged sword for rural Utah.
"Right now we can order things off the internet and have it show up at our door the next day," he stated. "From a retail position I can market things globally, but as a local business I would have to consider if I could compete in price wise with someone such as Amazon. And if I am higher in price and they provide free shipping I probably wouldn't do well. What most businesses here should consider is not selling from their website but using a website or some kind of web presence to give people information about their business. If I want a product and I look on a local businesses web ad or website to see if the have it I would be more willing to drive five or 10 minutes to buy it there than I would be to buy it off the web and wait. It should be a form of marketing."
Anyone who thinks they may be able to use the services of the SBDC can contact them at (435) 613-5443.