Starting a new business can be difficult, but a group of Sussex County officials and businesspeople are aiming to make it easier – and help boost economic development in the county – by offering a little help to would-be entrepreneurs. The Sussex Economic Development Action Committee (SEDAC) is hoping to combat what can be an intimidating market with their free monthly business development consultations, which kicked off at the end of September.
“We want to provide a one-stop shop,” said Bill Pfaff, director of the County’s Delaware Small Business and Technology Development Center. “We want to make sure people are starting off on the right track, whether they are in the process of relocating a business to Sussex County, expanding an existing business into the area or looking to start a whole new one here.”
On the fourth Monday of each month, these consultations will bring together ambitious business owners and hopefuls with representatives from a variety of agencies, including the U.S. Small Business Administration, Delaware Economic Development Office, the Delaware Center for Enterprise Development at Delaware State University, Southern Delaware Tourism and many more.
“There are so many service providers available today,” Pfaff added, “we want to try to bring them all together.”
The aims of these business development consultations are to locate financial and coaching resources, brainstorm with experts and those who have been in Sussex County’s business market through the years, and focus on the fundamentals of starting up companies in the southeastern region of the state.
Sept. 26 marked the first consultations of what Pfaff hopes is a year-round endeavor.
“We were very happy with the response we got with our first business consultation last month,” he said, “especially considering we were going up against a number of events that week.”
The next free business development consultation will be held on Oct. 24, from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. at the Georgetown Public Library on West Pine Street.
The idea for the sessions came after a discussion with Kent County’s Chamber of Commerce.
“We saw this done in Kent County,” Pfaff acknowledged. “We can’t take full credit for it, but we thought it would be a great asset to have here in Sussex County, too.”
There are a number of steps that new business owners and individuals looking to make a move in lower Delaware need to consider, he said.
“Anybody who is looking at starting or expanding a business anywhere needs to first identify the market,” said Pfaff. “Once they do that, they need to identify their customer. Then, they need to go out and evaluate how large their market is in their service area. After that, you need to examine your competition, both direct and indirect.
“All the while, you need to consider how saturated the market is in that service. What piece of your market is going to set you above the rest? All of these steps take place in a business plan, and these consultations can help you set that up.”
The monthly consultations have been set with a one-year goal and, Pfaff added, in the long run, they will help create new jobs, as well.
Working in a seasonal destination comes at a cost, but establishing connections with the right organizations and agencies can help iron all that out.
“The toughest industry in Sussex County is the seasonal business owner,” said Pfaff. “There is a rent factor to take into consideration, whether or not your business will operate year-round. These consultations can help you create cash flow projections, so you can see how money is coming in and going out. It’s actually a matter of hard science. You need to understand profit trends in the area and evaluate your spending.”
The service providers available do not address licensing and permits, but rather help business owners understand, up front, what topics need to be considered and addressed.
While retail makes up a predominant part of the seasonal business, the consultations can address every line of industry.
“All of our service providers have dealt with a variety of industries,” said Pfaff, “everything from retail and construction to manufacturing, health care and the aquaculture industry. We’ve even taken a big look at the microbrew industry in the area. They’ve worked with nearly every business sector imaginable.”
For more information about the free business development consultations, held the fourth Monday of each month at the Georgetown Public Library, visit www.sedac-de.org or call Bill Pfaff at (302) 856-1555. Walk-ins are welcome. Due to the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, there will be no consultation in the month of December.