Business owners who participated in last year's program say they saw success.
Ronald Smith is in the business of taking care of the dead. He owns a funeral home in Fresno and just recently opened another in Tulare. "We were able to look at setting up a 3-year plan and a basic 3-year growth action plan," said Ronald Smith.
Before opening his second funeral home, Smith participated in a training program in Fresno put on by the SBA. The class provided participants a chance to work with experienced mentors to develop connections and successfully grow their business. "It's a little scary when you're thinking about growing your business in a recession and by the end we were at the end of class and midway through, I knew that expanding was the right thing," said Smith.
Last year, 12 people successfully completed the training course. Now, the SBA is looking for 17 small business owners throughout the Valley to take on the crash-course. "You have to be in business for 3 years so we are not looking at start- ups and your annual revenue has to be $400,000 to $10 million," said Carlos Mendoza, the SBA director in Fresno.
The 8-week course -- which would normally cost around $6,000 -- is being offered free of charge to small and medium-sized businesses. "We're making an investment but our real payback is creating jobs and that's what our community needs, jobs," said Mendoza.
Smith was able to hire four more people to his staff. He says the class is for anyone, even those with a business degree. "I have an MBA, I have a doctorate but at the end of the day, practical hands-on experience is important. Because now you have people you can sound ideas off of. It's not classroom-based, it's not theoretical, it's real world," said Smith. An investment opportunity Smith hopes other business owners take advantage of.
Classes for the training initiative will begin on April 25 and run for 8 months. The deadline to apply is Friday, March 23.