By Robin Fitzpatrick
ACEDC’s projects have a lot in common with The Beatles. Yes, you read that right. And it’s all summarized in a quote from the late great Apple CEO Steve Jobs:
“My model for business is The Beatles. They balanced each other, and the total was greater than the sum of their parts. That’s how I see business: great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.”
ACEDC is also part of a band, so to speak—an extensive team of nonprofit service providers—and I want to shed some light on these incredible relationships. Just as each musician in a band plays his/her instrument and contributes to the song, ACEDC partners with other agencies and businesses throughout Adams County and all of Central PA to accomplish success for Adams County businesses. One of the most amazing benefits about our nonprofit network of providers? Nearly all services are available to area business owners at no cost… free!
Let’s say someone walks in our door and wants to find out how we can help them attain financing to start a business. First, we access where they are in the process. We can refer them to commercial lenders, accountants, attorneys, and help them assemble a professional team. But more often than not, our first referral is to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Shippensburg University which offers free, confidential consulting services to entrepreneurs.
“Preparation is a big part of starting a business,” explains Cheryl Young of the SBDC. “The most important aspect is whether they have enough capital to finance a business. They have to research how much money is needed to launch the business and sustain it through the first two years. Also, do they have management capabilities? We help them do market research as well. There are a lot of avenues, a lot of information that we work with the client on—we help them realize what they’re getting into.”
Young helps referrals develop business plans and research their markets. A potential business owner, armed with valuable data, is then prepared to come back to ACEDC and explore financing options. That’s where more team members come into play—within state agencies to apply for low-interest loans, for example, or commercial lenders.
One very unique lender is Jill Bollinger, Vice President of Community Lending for York and Adams Counties, with Community First Fund based in York. Community First Fund, a nonprofit, provides loans and counseling to small and mid-size businesses.
“We are about impact—funding loans that have a true impact upon low wealth communities and individuals,” Bollinger explains. “I’ve always enjoyed small business lending and the consultative aspect. With Community First Fund, so much of my focus is consulting and bringing partners together. There’s no question, after working as a commercial lender for 30+ years, this is some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done and I love being part of a collaboration.”
Both agencies, the SBDC and Community First Fund, claim incredible statistics to back up their work.
According to the SBDC’s Director Mike Unruh, the center averages 350 clients annually, all acquired organically through word-of-mouth from partners such as ACEDC in a four-county region. In 2015, Shippensburg SBDC founded 44 new businesses, either created or saved 431 jobs, and secured almost $8 million dollars to start or grow businesses.
“But one of the things I find most interesting is a statistic from the statewide network of SBDCs,” Unruh says. “Of the folks who receive assistance from the SBDCs , eight in 10 are still in business eight years later—a much greater number than those who proceed without assistance. We provide an educational piece—what it means to start and manage a business—that makes a difference.”
Community First Fund covers a 13-county area. Since 1992, they have financed 1,436 business and community development projects, disbursing nearly $120 million, which created and retained more than 6,600 jobs. True to their mission, 80% of those loans were to people of color, and people/communities that qualified as low-income. Additionally 36% of the loans were made to women-owned businesses, 24% went to community service organizations, and 36% helped businesses launch. Many of these projects translated into restored downtown neighborhoods and sustainable community service programs.
This column focuses on just two of ACEDC’s numerous partners. Seeing the results is an extremely rewarding process. Steve Jobs was indeed right—“great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.”
Robin Fitzpatrick, President of ACEDC, can be reached at 717-334-0042, ext. 1. For additional information, see acedc.org, and follow the organization on Facebook and Twitter for the latest Adams County business news.