20 years of help to start-ups
When Gary and Kathy Penny walked into the SUNY Brockport Small Business Development Center two years ago looking for help getting their kettle corn business up and running, they expected the center to give them all the answers.
Instead, Gary said, all their small business adviser did was ask questions.

"She really challenged us right from the get-go," Gary said. "We thought we had thought of everything and she challenged us to answer all these new things we hadn't thought of."

Because of those questions "we came back to her stronger than ever," he said.

The center on Thursday celebrated the 20th anniversary of the statewide small business development center program with a trade show of center alumni like Penny and an awards ceremony at the State University College at Brockport's MetroCenter, 55 St. Paul St. downtown.

The Brockport center has been dispensing advice for 17 years and has helped more than 12,100 businesses, according to center statistics.

Those businesses went on to invest $88.1 million and create or save 4,000 jobs, the statistics said.

Tough questioning of prospective entrepreneurs is by design, said Jan Pisanczyn, center director.

Sometimes center officials end up talking people out of starting a business, he said.

Too often, Pisanczyn said, the center gets calls from entrepreneurs who say they've been running their business for six months or a year only to run into trouble.

"If you're going to have to bet the ranch, and that's what a bank is going to make you do, you better do it the right way," he said. "You've got to have the recipe before you start baking."

For the Pennys, the advice is paying off.

The Hilton couple are selling their kettle corn through the Web and a booth at the Rochester Public Market.

They also offer their products to charitable groups for fundraising sales.

"We had never really thought of running a business before," and the center showed the couple the right methods, Kathy Penny said.

The center also helped Dave Doucette, a retired product designer from Hamlin, focus the business plan of his Sandy Creek Corp., which makes a lawn chair that can hold 500 pounds.

"They have a way of focusing you on the right path," he said.

And Monica Ryszytiwskyj, president of Ayuda, a company that provides personal assistants for individuals and corporations, used the center to shore up her business plan.

"We needed a loan and they helped us build a well-thought-out plan" that secured one, she said.

As part of Thursday's event, the center also inducted Pro-Mold Inc. of Gates into the state Small Business Development Center Hall of Fame.

Pro-Mold used the Brockport center's services in 2001 to help it buy a new division that doubled the company's employment to 40 workers.

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