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  Location: 3500 Sports Arena Blvd. • San Diego, CA (map)
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  Admission: $1 Fri. • $2 Sat. & Sun. • Children 11 & under FREE
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The SBDC is Here to Help

by Liz Mitchell

MIn this article we overview the variety of resources available at the Small Business Development and International Trade Center (SBDITC) at Southwestern College in Chula Vista. Get valuable free information and support from professionals.

MGoing into business for oneself has always involved risks, investments and dedication. Small Business Development Centers (SBDC's) were developed to help take some of the guesswork out of starting and operating a business. According to Victor Castillo, Operations Manager and International Trade Specialist of the SBDITC, the organization's central mission is "to provide a comprehensive, one-stop source of assistance to San Diego County's small businesses. The Center stimulates the regional economy and promotes new job opportunities by providing training and counseling programs which assist small business."

MThe BRC offers current information and the latest computer technology to help build a business from the ground up. San Diego County is fortunate to have this resource since there are only 40 BRC's in the entire country. The center also offers dedicated internet workstations, so users can surf the web to gather resources and leads. There are extensive up-to-date CD-ROM databases which provide information on all aspects of business including development, marketing, demographics and economic trends. The BRC also has a library of videotapes and manuals explaining how to start over 200 businesses, everything from dog grooming to barber shops.

MThe best part is it's all free! The SBDITC has all this plus assistance in international trade as well as one of the best equipped Business Resource Centers (BRC's) in the country. In California, Small Business Development Centers (SBDC's) are funded by the Small Business Administration (SBA) in partnership with the California Trade and Commerce Agency. There are 46 SBDC facilities throughout the state.

MThe SBDITC at Southwestern College began modestly in 1988, but now has many associated programs designed to promote and develop local small business. These include the Border Environmental Commerce Alliance (BECA), the Contracting Opportunities Center (COC), the Customized Training Department and the South County Career Center (SCCC). BECA provides an incubator environment and technical assistance to new companies trading with Mexico. The COC, located in Mission Valley, helps small businesses obtain contracts with government agencies. The Customized Training Department offers specialized employee training to existing businesses at low cost. The SCCC works closely with the employment department, providing help to those who are unemployed or switching careers.

MAlthough resources are free to the public, appointments are required to see a counselor and potential clients must undergo an informal screening process. This is to determine what needs the potential client has so the center can best assist them. First time users of the BRC are encouraged to attend a brief 5-10 minute orientation describing the resources available and how to use the computer systems. A BRC staffer is always available to answer questions during operating hours.

MFor those thinking about starting a new small business at some place like Kobey's, Castillo says, "They should come to the BRC for a short orientation, take a class or enroll in a training program. This is a very good way people can find out if they can do something or not. Last year we offered 54 seminars with high attendance."

M"First time clients meet with business advisers," he continues. "Then we define and develop what we call a scope of work. What are the client's needs? Which of those needs is central? We try to narrow their needs down and find the area where we can best help them so we are more productive for the client. People can better use our resources such as counseling if they're already in business because they have a better potential to create more jobs and help the economy which is better for everybody."

MIf you're stumped and can't find the answer to your problem, a counselor at the SBDITC can help. One-on-one counseling is available in all major areas of business including business planning and management, creating a business plan, legal structure, licenses and permits, import/export regulations, trade leads, marketing services, advertising, cash flow management, financial analysis and sources of capital for growth.

MAll staff counselors have either been in business themselves, have started a business or have specific experience. In addition to the counselors available at the SBDITC, Ken Clark, Small Business Services Coordinator at the SBDITC, manages a pool of sixty small business consultants, some of the most prestigious persons in their field in San Diego. These experts work for the center at a reduced fee. There are specialists in marketing, international trade, finance, certification and even home based businesses. Counseling is also available in Spanish.

MIf you'd like to take advantage of the SBDC or BRC at Southwestern College call (619) 482-6391 to make an appointment to see a counselor, to schedule a tour, to find out about seminars or find out more about their existing programs. Southwestern College Small Business Development & International Trade Center is located at 900 Otay Lakes Road, Building 1600, Chula Vista, CA 91910. Visit The North County office is located at 1823 Mission Ave., Oceanside, CA 92054. Call (760) 795-8740



revised July 9, 2007