Entrepreneurs get support from Montco Commerce Department

NORRISTOWN — For those looking to start their own business, the Montgomery County Department of Commerce offers a one-stop shop for entrepreneurship.

In partnership with the Small Business Development Center, would-be entrepreneurs receive free services that provide information about the ins and outs of starting a business, according to Commerce Director Dave Zellers.

Funded through the U.S. Small Business Administration and Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Small Business Development Center operates out of 15 colleges across Pennsylvania, according to Zellers. Montgomery County’s contingent works with Lehigh, Kutztown and Temple universities.

“The SPDC, they don’t write business plans for people,” Zellers told MediaNews Group. “What they do is they guide them through the process, and coach them, because ultimately you want them to really feel ownership for their idea.”

More than a dozen entrepreneurs attended a First Step Workshop Sept. 22 — the first in a series of four monthly workshops, scheduled for the third Thursday of each month through December. Participants at the Sept. 22 session included those looking to launch businesses in the consulting, graphic design and health care spaces.

DAVE ZELLERS

“It’s really meant to coach people up, make them feel good,” Zellers said. “These are people that are starting their business, or maybe they quite haven’t figured it out yet, but they have an idea. Everyone’s in a little bit of a different place, but that’s OK — that’s good. It’s all about the technical expertise they get.”

The sessions feature free key legal, procedural and practical information for attendees. Topics range from registering a certain type of business to gaining insight about financial, zoning and other regulatory codes, according to county officials.

Additional market resources and consultant opportunities are available to those who register, according to Zellers, who added that the relationship between future business owners and the Small Business Development Center should be considered long-term.

“I think it gives people an extra edge, and that’s so valuable, and it gives them extra confidence too,” he said. “I genuinely believe that to be able to ask those questions, get that assistance in whatever form it might come in and that’s important.”

Zellers and representatives from the Small Business Development Center gave a status report on the initiative during a Montgomery County Board of Commissioners meeting last month, and elected leaders were pleased with the progress.

“It’s such a valuable asset to have the entrepreneur(s) and business startups in our community, and I look forward to the expansion efforts here,” said Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale.

Montgomery County Commissioners’ Chairwoman Val Arkoosh agreed.

“Our small business community is so important to the job creation, and the future growth of this county, and we want them to feel well supported and to be able to thrive,” she said.

The next workshop is scheduled for 12 to 2 p.m. on Oct. 20. Those interested in registering for the event should visit the Montgomery County Commerce Department website at montcopa.org/commerce or pasbdc.org. A location will be provided for attendees after signing up.

Reflecting on the first session, Zellers said he has high hopes to reach many others and help them realize their dreams.

“I think anytime we can see more people excited about entrepreneurship, and grow their businesses … that will help in any of our communities that these people want to make that leap in, and start their business or their next location or whatever it might be,” Zellers said.

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