Big Help for Small Business
Some of the most valuable teaching at College of DuPage takes place outside the classroom. Those on the receiving end are local business owners who tap COD’s Center for Entrepreneurship for free counsel and training.
COD’s Center for Entrepreneurship houses three college-, state- and federally funded services that work together to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses:
- The Illinois Small Business Development Center helps with management, marketing, finance and operations.
- The Illinois Procurement Technical Assistance Center helps with government contracting.
- The Illinois International Trade Center helps with export opportunities.
Clients say the Center for Entrepreneurship makes a big difference in many ways. Illinois Business Systems, for example, has gotten help with business plans, marketing, financing, cash-flow analysis and more.
“Our business has grown significantly over the past five years and I credit the Center for helping to drive this growth,” said owner Rick Mytnik. “We avoided the pitfalls that typically trip up a small business, such as lack of cash or lack of ideas, and made it look easy.”
For Eric White, vice president of the Glen Art Theatre, the Center helped with business planning and financing.
“They put us in touch with several banks,” said White. “One of the banks helped us finance our transition to digital projectors and sound. We were even able to acquire funds for a future renovation of the lobby.”
For COD’s Entrepreneurship team, it’s rewarding work with a direct impact on local jobs.
David Gay, manager of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at COD, recalls helping a Tel Labs/Lucent engineer who turned entrepreneur, purchased an obsolete product line from his former employer and went global.
“We helped him with negotiation strategies, his business plan and the buy-out offer,” said Gay. “Five years later, his business had grown to a million dollar-plus-per-year firm, with 40 employees and presence in half-a-dozen countries. By the firm’s 10-year anniversary, the company had grown to more than 200 employees with operations on five continents.”
Luanne Mayorga, manager of COD’s office of the Illinois International Trade Center, said the world is ripe with opportunity—and not just for long-established firms.
“Normally, a company interested in exporting has been in business for a few years,” said Mayorga. But last summer, the Center helped a startup water purification firm launch international sales.
“With grant funding through the Small Business Jobs Act, we were able to provide technical assistance,” said Mayorga. “Thanks to our programs, the owner was also able to visit several countries and has since landed contracts in those countries.”
Rita Haake, manager of the Center for Entrepreneurship government contracting operation, helps local firms do business with Uncle Sam.
Haake cites a woman-owned business, Providentia Consulting in Naperville, that found the Center for Entrepreneurship through its website.
“Government contracting is confusing, intimidating and overwhelming to the masses,” said Haake. “This client broke the traditional mold by doing extensive research on opportunities, completing every checklist item efficiently and thoroughly, and following up with our office regularly. They submitted a proposal to the General Services Administration and won their first award within six months.”
In addition to one-on-one counsel, the Center for Entrepreneurship does much of its training through seminars and workshops.
“Every business owner needs someone that they can bounce ideas off of and gather feedback from,” said Illinois Business Systems’ Mytnik. “As a business owner, you always feel as though you need to be the smartest person in the room and know everything about everything. It’s nice to know there are resources you can use when you need help.”
For more details and contact information, visit the Center’s website, cod.edu/business_resources/entrepreneurship.
At top from left: Rita Haake, David Gay and Luanne Mayorga develop solutions for small businesses at COD’s Center for Entrepreneurship in Lisle. (Photo by Terence Guider-Shaw/special to College of DuPage)
Photos of Rick Mytnik and Eric White by Lloyd DeGrane/special to College of DuPage
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