Monday, July 29, 2013

Free Business Counseling in San Diego

By: Annik Prasad, Accion Intern

The California Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has long partnered with Accion to provide entrepreneurs with resources needed to start and sustain successful small businesses. For the past year, the Accion San Diego offices have provided office space for SBDC counselors to offer free business counseling for the Accion community.

SBDC consultant Joe Silverman is available at Accion’s office from Tuesday through Friday, offering one-on-one business counseling to start-up or existing businesses. Joe sat down with me to help spread awareness on the many services the SBDC has to offer. 

How and when was the Small Business Development of North County established?
The SBDC in San Diego was started in 1999 and is funded in part by the Small Business Administration. It is hosted by Mira Costa College. There is also another location in South County in National City. Our mission is to help small business owners or people who are trying to start a small business.

What type of services does the SBDC provide and what is the cost? 
The majority of our services are free. We provide two key types of services– business counseling and workshops. Our business counseling services are one-on-one and at no cost, which typically last about 1 to 1.5 hours. The Center has experts to provide consulting on topics related to business planning, accounting, human resources, certification programs, management, finance, marketing and other general business questions. We also have no or low cost workshops and seminars on topics like government contracting and entity formation.

How do you connect with entrepreneurs and business owners? 
We partner with organizations like Accion that offer services and resources to entrepreneurs. We recently partnered with Kimco, a real-estate investment company, and developed a series of classes to give entrepreneurs the tools to start and grow their businesses. People who complete all classes in the series may quality for discounted rent at a Kimco retail center.

Are the services only for start-ups or do you also work with established businesses? 
We work with entrepreneurs in all stages of their businesses. Often I find that long time business owners are not aware that services like this are available to them, and they are grateful when they finally find us.

What are some common questions or issues that come up are during your consulting sessions? 
One thing I have realized over time is that people really tend to underestimate how much money they will need to get started. For example, many people want to start a restaurant, but don’t realize that there are health and safety issues, building permits, and other regulatory issues that all cost money. I always advise my clients to make sure to count all the costs before launching out.

How long have you been with the SBDC of San Diego and what is your favorite part of the work you do? 
I have been doing this for over 12 years. There are some common issues, like questions about how to deal with credit problems and how to access capital to start a business. But, it never gets boring. I am amazed at the issues that come up. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, something new pops up.

How did things change after the 2008 economic downturn? Did you notice a change in the number of entrepreneurs coming to you for help? 
One thing I can say is that the entrepreneurial spirit has not been dampened. Whether the economy is up or down, there are always people with new ideas who want to go into business. If anything changed, there was more interest in government contracting right after the 2008 downturn, but things have returned to normal since then.

How can people set up an appointment for SBDC counseling? 
To schedule an appointment with an SBDC consultant, call (760) 795-8740. You can also call Accion San Diego at (619) 795-7250 to schedule a session with me at Accion’s office.

For more information about the San Diego SBDC visit the North County website at or the South County website at


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