by Olga Peters, Vermont Business Magazine “I would say that people are undaunted by the pandemic,” said Nancy Shuttleworth. “They're just going forward with something they’ve thought about doing for a long time, or they've had a significant job change situation, and this is the time to do it.”
Shuttleworth is the Rutland and Bennington business advisor with the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC).
She walks entrepreneurs through the process of launching a business and developing their business plans.
A year ago, most of Shuttleworth’s time went towards helping people access emergency funding such as the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).
This year she has seen a shift towards launching businesses.
A lot of what Shuttleworth does is confidential, but she did say that many of the people coming for advice were interested in “Vermont-style businesses”: specialty food, lodging, and niche retail.
“And in some cases, it's people that are in those sectors and who understand their businesses are different now than they were a year ago. And what can they do differently? How do they transition to a new environment?” Shuttleworth said.
She can’t quantify how many people have sought assistance from her office but she does feel that people have a lot of energy and interest in starting, selling, and buying businesses.
Shuttleworth urged people to visit the VtSBDC’s website: www.vtsbdc.org(link is external). Since the pandemic, many resources have moved online.
For example, people can find 10-minute videos on understanding the finical side of running a business called Know Your Numbers, she said.
Many new business owners are great at what they do - landscaping, cutting hair, baking bread - but they’re not accountants or CFOs, she said.
Shuttleworth recommends anyone interested in launching a business take the VtSBDC’s Start Your Own Business Workshop. This free, four-hour class is made up of 90-minute webinars, she said.
At the end of the class, is a list of the next steps. Complete those steps and then contact an advisor, she recommends.
“That's been extremely, extremely busy,” she said. “They're getting 20 to 30 people a week in that.”
“So does that mean that every single person starts a business after they go through that? Not necessarily,” she said. “But we like to start people there because it gives them an overall of all the things they need to think about.”
People can look for VtSBDC resources or advisors in their county, Shuttleworth said. All their services are free.
A grant program called Forward VT is available for businesses in the Bennington and Rutland region designed to help businesses respond to the closings of Southern Vermont College, Green Mountain College, and the College St Joseph in Rutland.
According to a press release, Forward VT helps current and new business owners build strategies and develop tools to “promote their business and create new opportunities as they move forward in a challenging economic environment.”
Support includes understanding their customer market and revenue sources, evaluating marketing and social media strategies, and one-on-one advising.
This grant funding is limited. To learn more contact Shuttleworth at email@example.com(link sends e-mail).
“We are working with businesses that are taking advantage of that, and we have partnerships with a couple of marketing consultants,” she said.
The SBA also maintains a list of COVID-related relief programs on its website for people to review.
“There's a lot of information out there and it can be confusing for sure,” she said. “We have done a lot of helping people sit through that, and understand what programs work for people and whether that's something they want to take advantage of.”
To watch the SBA video series, Know Your Numbers, visit: https://www.vtsbdc.org/know-your-number(link is external).
The Start Your Own Business class is available at: https://ic.vtsbdc.org/workshop.aspx?ekey=410010(link is external).
A list of COVID-related information updated as needed: https://www.vtsbdc.org/covid-19-lending(link is external).