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1/18/2004

SBA program, FRCC to offer business training

By Pam Mellskog
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Before opening doors on her new printing business, Sherry Hanson, 42, went back to high school.

The former long-time Oracle data base administrator sat in on a printing trade class at the Career Development Center for St. Vrain Valley students last fall, she said, to get her hands ready for the Jan. 19 grand opening of ARS Printing, 105 S. Sunset St.

But to get her head in the game, she tapped into the Westminster Small Business Development Center.

“It’s not impossible to start a new business,” said Hanson, who co-owns ARS Printing with her brother, a 30-year veteran printing operator/manager. “It’s just a lot of hard work — a much lengthier, more detailed process than I thought.”

Tedious or not, the center — which is partially funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration — exists to offer make-or-break low-cost training and counseling to small business owners and would-be owners, according to director Julie Faseag.

“These are your tax dollars going to work,” said Faseag, who will offer classes at Front Range Community College in February.

Hanson took three classes — Start-up Orientation, Business Plan Orientation and Winning Through Financial Awareness — to get off to a good start, she said. This winter she plans on taking another class called “The Next Level” as more success insurance.

The center’s schedule, which could be dubbed a “reality check curriculum” for covering everything from tax law to business planning, also includes super fundamentals such as “The Five Cs of Credit,” Faseag said.

The checklist, she explained, covers good personal credit, collateral, an equity contribution between 20 and 30 percent, cash flow and the conditions for earning in the given industry.

Just doing the homework, she continued, can be the eye-opener that keeps people from emptying their savings accounts and quitting their day jobs prematurely.

The Small Business Administration operates 900 such centers nationwide and 16 others statewide, she explained.

But because the journey from conceiving an idea to hatching a business can be long, some business owner hopefuls stuck with Faseag after she left a Denver center for Westminster last year.

That was the case for Alires Almon, 35, a Littleton resident and telecommunications manger with a master’s degree in psychology and minor in organizational development.

She still counsels with Faseag developing Ride or Die, a snowboard gear and accessory design business targeted to a multi-cultural audience.

That partnership, Almon explained, expanded her business plan from 15 to 50 pages.

“I’m a big picture person, and I had a vision for something that would show ‘Attitude in the Altitude,’” explained Almon, who is African American.

It took a year to refine the brand, but Black Betty — Betty being the vernacular for women snowboarders — was finally trademarked, she said.

The logo is a black woman, Almon explained, with wild hair and her hands on her hips. Besides using hotter colors, namely orange, the new line will also offer “more generous sizing.”

“We hear about overnight successes, but it never really happens that way. It took years to get to the point of applying for my loan,” Almon said.

Yet, that preparation is often the swing factor between launching a doomed-from-the-start business and a one with a fighting chance, according to Faseag.

For more information, call 303-460-1032 or visit www.frontrange.edu/smallbusinesswcipd@frontrange.edu.

Pam Mellskog can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 224, or by e-mail at pmellskog@times-call.com.