By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
If you are thinking of starting a new business – or even if you already have an existing business that you would like to grow – the Biz-Buz-Hub is something you may want to attend.
Four entities – Salem International University’s School of Business, the City of Salem, the Salem Area Economic Development Authority, and the Salem Chamber of Commerce – have collaborated and assembled an exceptional team of experts that are skilled in business development, and they want to share their knowledge and resources to help you. Perhaps the best part is that it’s free!
Duane B. Thomas, a business professor at SIU, put the pieces together to offer this informational session. Whether you are a would-be entrepreneur or even if you already have a business in operation in the Salem area, you are encouraged to participate. The first session will be held at the Old City Building on Main Street in Downtown Salem on Wednesday, January 25th from 1 to 3 p.m.
“The sessions will offer an opportunity to learn more about running and growing a small business. Topics will range from securing financing to writing a business or marketing plan to using social media effectively,” he said. “Whether our participants are already business owners or just considering it, they will find lots of helpful information. It won’t be a textbook type of meeting; there will be lots of fluid conversation, questions and answers, and many valuable resources for them to draw from,” Mr. Thomas noted.
He added, “Sometimes when people seek help, there may be a form or a format that fits them into a box, but this approach is the opposite. It will be based on their individual needs, and people will begin to realize that the hurdles they encounter and the challenges they may face are not unique to them. Even big businesses and industries face the same kinds of concerns.”
Thomas noted that Salem is no different than many other small communities throughout the state and the nation. They all have some empty storefronts they would like to fill … and even some larger cities address the same issues.
“This collaboration among these organizations involved in Biz-Buz-Hub are demonstrating our commitment to economic redevelopment in Salem and the immediate area,” Thomas stated. “They are all valuable members of the community and want to provide support for cultivating and growing small businesses. We want to build a network of like individuals and offer them information and resources that can help them.”
For example, Thomas said that if financing is among your concerns in establishing or growing a business, they can perhaps match you up with a lending institution in the area that can assist you.
In fact, the right bank may be just down the street looking for applicants to help. OR technology can help link you up with people even outside the state who can help you.
“We want to show interested parties how to write up and present a business plan. We may bring someone in who will work with you one on one and show you that there are things you can do to make it happen. In essence, we want to be a ‘support system’.”
Although not a West Virginia native, Mr. Thomas has been in West Virginia since 1990. He said he has heard all about how the state not only exports coal; it exports its people!
“We want to keep those people here and make them aware they can do what they want to do right here in West Virginia. We’ll help them make the connections and present the resources they may need to seek the help needed to develop a business of their own,” he explained.
He told of a couple of students he met who graduated from WVU a few years ago. They loved the outdoor activities here and wanted to remain here. They opened up a business on Main Street in a community in West Virginia and found a way to make it work. Now they have multiple offices in other states as well.
Thomas says the Biz-Buz-Hub Collaborative has a long range goal. They want the monthly ‘gatherings’ to be ongoing. Even if you miss the first session next week, you won’t be ‘behind’ if you attend the second one.
“Sessions will be geared toward the participants,” he continued. “If someone wants further information on a particular topic, we may feature that topic more closely during a later session. We may even hold some sessions at some of our small businesses in the area to help promote those businesses. We know it will take time to grow, but we are going to stay with it and try to boost redevelopment in our area. We have a couple of new businesses that are scheduled to open in Salem in the next quarter. Our goal is to build on having more! We know that people like doing business with people at locally owned and operated businesses.”
The Biz-Buz-Hub Collaborative will meet the last Wednesday of each month through May – from 1 to 3 p.m. – or times may differentiate to meet the needs of participants if necessary. Sessions will discontinue during the summer months but will resume in the fall.
For more information, you may contact Duane Thomas at 304-326-1618 or by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.