Last month, I wrote about the oversized role that local businesses play in our South Florida economy and how important it is that they flourish, even in the face of stiff competition from the Walmarts, Targets, Amazons, Starbucks, Pizza Huts and Chipotle’s of the world.
These corporate titans exert enormous competitive pressure. But our local small business people and entrepreneurs don’t have to go it alone. Miami has a growing ecosystem designed to support local businesses with technical assistance and access to capital.
On Oct. 16, for example, the Small Business Development Center at the FIU Business School is offering a free marketing workshop specifically designed to help small business compete with large, deep-pocketed competitors. The course is called “Guerrilla Marketing” and is intended to teach participants how to use especially creative and low-cost marketing tactics to outmaneuver bigger companies. To make a reservation, go to: https://business.fiu.edu/centers/sbdc/events-trainings.cfm
Beyond big advertising budgets, another advantage that large national corporations have over most local businesses are teams of experienced executives with years — if not decades — of business experience. The Miami-Dade chapter of the Service Corp of Retired Executives, otherwise known as SCORE, aims to level that playing field.
SCORE is a nonprofit that provides three types of technical assistance to small business owners and entrepreneurs. First, the organization pairs small business owners with experienced executives who act as mentors who can help overcome obstacles, reach new customers and achieve business goals. Second, SCORE provides online videos, webinars, templates and articles about starting a business: from evaluating startup ideas to writing business plans, raising money and generating sales. And finally, SCORE conducts training workshops in both English and Spanish in locations around Miami-Dade. Find them online at https://miamidade.score.org.
The U.S. Small Business Administration also has an extensive online Learning Center at https://www.sba.gov/learning-center. The SBA’s free course catalog takes entrepreneurs and small business owners from initial planning, through launch, early business management, and long-term growth. They offer free courses about how to write a business plan, the ins and outs of social media marketing, the basics of accounting, and the ways that customer service impacts business success.
And the SBA goes beyond technical assistance by putting their money where their mouth is. They offer funding programs for small business, from guaranteed loans to government grants to help finding equity partners. The SBA’s South Florida district office can be reached at https://www.sba.gov/offices/district/fl/miami. They’ll give you more information and help you find a local bank such as BankUnited, U.S. Century Bank and Ocean Bank that participate in making government backed loans to small business.
More ambitious startups can turn to the Florida Venture Capital Program which was set up to provide equity funding to Florida companies in the areas of alternative energy, professional services, information technology, and manufacturing. The fund’s investment criteria are heavily weighted to the number of Florida jobs that your business will create and, of course, is predicated on the strength of your business plan. You can learn more at: http://www.floridaopportunityfund.com.
At the other end of the financing spectrum, there’s the Mom and Pop Small Business Grant program. This aptly named Miami-Dade County program helps small, locally owned and operated businesses purchase equipment, supplies, advertising, inventory, insurance and minor renovations. To be eligible, a company must be local, and it can’t be part of a national chain. The program accepts applications from January through May. More information is available at: http://www.miamidade.gov/business/business-assistance.asp.
These, and many other organizations are part of our local economic ecosystem supporting small businesses and startup activities. They play a vital role in making Miami a hub of entrepreneurship and keeping more of our money circulating locally.