20 April 2017
Aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses in Fluvanna County have an ally in the local branch of the Central Virginia Small Business Development Center (CVSBDC).
Funded by the Small Business Administration and a network of public and private partners, the CVSBDC offers free, confidential counseling and a host of free and low-cost training and development resources.
“You’re their counselor, you’re their cheerleader, and sometimes, you’re their mother,” said local business counselor Diane Arnold.
Arnold retired to Lake Monticello last year after a 10-year stint as director of the Longwood Small Business Development Center in Danville and a long career in teaching, marketing, and government procurement. Not long after her arrival, she was asked by CVSBDC Director Betty Hoge to help out.
Now she provides one-on-one counseling and advice around the Center’s five-county service area. In Fluvanna, she holds counseling sessions on the second Tuesday of each month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Chamber of Commerce on Main Street. She currently works with three to four Fluvanna businesses owners per month.The first bit of advice she has for any aspiring businessperson is to “find out what you don’t know, because what you don’t know hurts you.” Starting a business “is always going to take more money and more time than you think,” she said.
Offering a variety of services, including online training and webinars, and introductions to specialists in international trade and government procurement, the CVSBDC provides the guidance and tools to help small business clients clarify their ideas and build a solid plan for success.
Planning is particularly crucial in getting that all-important start-up cash. “Never go to the bank to ask for money unless you are prepared. And you’d better be exact,” Arnold said. Using planning tools and spreadsheets, her clients can get their facts and figures down and show potential lenders where those numbers are coming from.
Fluvanna has benefits for the starting business operator. A business license is not required to operate within the county. Zoning laws are less restrictive than in places like Charlottesville, “where zonings can change from block to block,” said Arnold.
In the 2015-2016 business climate survey conducted by county government, 57 percent of respondents said starting a business in Fluvanna was easy and 54 percent said they would recommend it as a business location. Most respondents said the biggest disadvantage was the small size of the local market.
Arnold would like to see the county conduct a needs assessment to find out what services people are going outside Fluvanna to find and see if the local market is big enough to support those services within the county.
Starting a small business is often an intensely personal experience, and this sometimes makes it difficult to reach out for assistance. “Nobody loves your baby like you love your baby,” Arnold said. But resources do exist and the “extra hands and extra eyes” provided by the CVSBDC and other organizations are there to give people the help they need.
To learn more, visit http://www.cvsbdc.org or to schedule an appointment, call 434-295-8198 or email