Free loan workshop held in Downtown Fresno

FRESNO, California

Wykeita Barnett of Madera has been unemployed for the last three months but isn't letting that dissuade her from starting up her own business. "I just look at it as a door of opportunity being open for me to assist me to further what I want to do," said Wykeita Barnett.

Around a dozen people like her attended the Small Business Administration loan workshop in Downtown Fresno. The SBA puts on free programs to assist those who want to hit the ground running with their business ideas. Barnett plans to start her own soul-food restaurant if she gets a loan. "I just want to start up really small, like a weekend. Start Friday through Sunday and see how it works to grow," Barnett said.

But it can be tough to successfully launch a business venture during a rough economy. "Business revenues are down, sales are down and as banks, we want to see businesses that are growing so that we can lend to the business and help them continue to grow," said Greg Heiss, leasing manager at Bank of the Sierra. Lenders say the number of people applying for SBA loans has been flat during the last couple of years but they have seen some growth in the last quarter, a positive sign of things to come. "We're seeing more request for start-up companies than we typically do," Heiss said.

"I'd recommend that to anybody. If you're going to start a business, you're going to need somebody to help you out," said Wayne Goudreau. Goudreau sat in SBA workshops two years ago hoping to start his own flooring company, and has since seen success. His company, Innovation Commercial Flooring, installs specialized floor coverings for school and government buildings. He says he wouldn't be where he is today if it weren't for the SBA. "I'm a construction guy. I go out and do the work. This kind of fell in my lap so without it, I wouldn't even know where to begin," Goudreau said.

And that's exactly where Barnett hopes to land someday. "They said its five steps, this is the first one so I have four more to go to success," Barnett said.

The SBA holds free workshops throughout the year to help people apply for small-business loans. Their next workshop will be held on March 6th.

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