ISBDC partners with IU South Bend

The North Central division of the Indiana Small Business Development Center had a grand opening on Wednesday at Indiana University South Bend.

The grand opening was to celebrate the relocation and new partnership between the university and the center, which is now located in the campus's Judd Leighton School of Business and Economics.

ISBDC offers help to people wanting to start up a small business or an already established business needing to revamp their techniques.

“We help them develop business plans, and put together the financial projections that are required to raise funds,” said Alan Steele, the Regional Director for the North Central ISBDC.

Partnering with the university will not only allow for office space, but will allow for the center to meet with clients, offer one-on-one counseling sessions, and to also tap into the university population.

"This is the first time that an Indiana University has served as a regional host within the state of Indiana, so we're really excited about that and to lead the way," Steele said.

He said that this partnership is ideal because it gives them a chance to reach out to college students who are interested in entrepreneurship.

“Our center serves a five county area and if you look at the university's enrollment numbers, well over 90-percent of the students at the university come from the five county area,” he added.

The numbers conclude that about 70-percent of those graduates stay within those five counties, according to Steele.

One small business owner attributes the success of her business to the ISBDC.

Karen Barnett is President & CEO of Valley Screen in Mishawaka.

“Our company is 48 years old this year. My dad founded us in 1967 so I was the second generation owner and actually the recession hit the first month that I owned the company. That was the last good month we had in a long, long time,” Barnett said.

At that time, the company's primary sales were in the marine and RV industry and those industries were not doing so well in 2008.

“We approached Alan and came to ISBDC for advice and he helped us diversify,” she said.

She attributed the success of the business to changing up their routine of only doing marine and RV type sales and expanding to vehicle and other types of signage.

“We figured out what other products we could produce with our own human talent and our existing equipment because at the time we didn't have money for capital expenditures. I would say without Alan's help, I'm not sure that we would be here today,” Barnett added.

During the recession, they had to lay off workers. Since then, they have rehired most of their workers and have about 60 employees.

“We're actually on track to have a really great year,” she said.

In 2014, the North Central ISBDC did $4,858,766 in total investments in small businesses. They had seven businesses start, and did 612 one-on-one counseling hours.

They hope this partnership will allow for an even more productive year.

“It's just very rewarding for us to play some small role in contributing to their success,” Steele said.
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