Sara Kate Rushing
The Mississippi Small Business Development Center is an organization committed to advising, helping, and leading new or experienced entrepreneurs in their journey to start a new business or keep an existing business afloat.
There are 14 Small Business Development Centers located throughout Mississippi, all housed at universities or colleges. A new center is set to open in November in Jackson.
These centers are a product of a national organization called the U.S. Small Business Administration. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website, the organization was founded in 1953 and has several branches throughout the United States.
Each state has at least one center. In Mississippi, the Small Business Development Center is funded by the government, and its main office is in Oxford.
Michelle Thompson, communications specialist with the Mississippi Small Business Development Center, said the organization helps young entrepreneurs achieve their goal of owning their own, profitable business.
“We help people get their financial information together and develop a business plan,” Thompson said. “Second, we help the person plan for the next step, which is usually to get a loan from a lender.”
Many aspiring entrepreneurs come to the center and say, “I have this fantastic idea, and have not written anything down,” Thompson said. They sit with advisors and experts to develop an official business plan.
“We also offer workshops throughout the year, and people are able to see what preparation they need to do in order to start their business,” said Thompson.
The organization assists young entrepreneurs and helps others who have been in the industry for years. It doesn’t matter if a person has been in business for five years or 25, they may still reach out to the Mississippi Small Business Development Center for help or advice.
“We help experienced entrepreneurs in the industry figure out if they want to expand their business or close it,” said Thompson. “We also help them come up with new ways to market their business. Any problem an entrepreneur has, they can come to us, and we will help.”
The Mississippi Small Business Development Center is committed to the success of the people for which they work for. “We are here to serve the people of Mississippi,” said Thompson, who has worked for the Mississippi Small Business Development Center for around a year. “This work is very fulfilling.”
The center conducts many workshops throughout the year that are open to the public. Experienced entrepreneurs give seminars on the best and most efficient ways to start a new business. Recently, the center held a workshop about how to create a proper business plan with guest speaker Mike Windham, MBA.
Windham grew up in Brookhaven, Mississippi and attended the University of Mississippi for his undergraduate degree. He graduated with a degree in journalism and radio and television production.
From there, Windham earned a Master of Science degree from Mississippi State University. After discovering his niche, he earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Alcorn State University and has been in the business field ever since.
Windham’s main topic of discussion for the workshop was the necessity of creating a proper business plan. Before a person can start his own business, he must figure out the logistics of his company and financing. Windham said it’s necessary to write down your business plan.
“If you have a written business plan, you can take it to the person you are hoping to borrow money from, and they will be able to remember your business plan and not just visualize it,” he said. “A lot of the time, the lender is not going to pay so much attention to you or your plan; so, it is necessary to create the very best ‘word-picture’ for the lender to go back and refer to,” said Windham.
“A business plan is a benchmark to starting your business. After starting your business, you can look at your business plan and see if you are doing what you originally set out to do.”
Windham is not an employee of the Mississippi Small Business Development Center, but he is a consultant for the organization. He has been teaching business workshops and courses for 20 years.
“Teaching is one of my favorite things to do,” he said.
The Mississippi Small Business Development Center has helped entrepreneurs achieve their goals, and the organization stands by its motto, Transforming Mississippi one small business at a time.