Tough times push many to start own businesses
UTICA — When the economy is down people’s business aspirations go up, some say. So, they pick entrepreneurship as a way to triumph past a stingy, ailing economy.

And locally, some new business owners are looking to the Small Business Development Center on the SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome campus to help turn their aspirations into actuality.

“We tend to see more (new) businesses at our doorstep when the economy goes down. One of the alternatives to finding a job is starting your own business,” said Dave Mallen, executive director of the Small Business Development Center.

The center offers potential and existing business owners various free services, including help with constructing a business plan and information about funding sources.

In the year following the 2001 terrorist attacks, the center saw 102 more clients than the previous year, Mallen said, a testament to people looking to take their finances into their own hands.

In 2002, the center saw 657 clients, compared to 555 clients in 2001. The financing secured for the 657 clients — through outside funding sources — was $13 million, while the 555 clients netted about $18.5 million, Mallen said.

Though the smaller number produced more financing, the larger number of clients means more people were affected, Mallen said.

At a “Small Business In Depth” class in January, hosted by the Small Business Development Center, more than 20 enrollees had similar goals of ownership.

“I’ve worked for 28 years for other people,” said Randy Smith of Verona, who started his business RDS Electric in December 2002. “I wanted to try running my own business. I have a good business awareness, and wanted to know the details of what to do as the sole proprietor.”

People like Smith and his classmates enrolled in the 20- hour course to investigate a new business or improve upon their (established) businesses, said Robert Dunn, the class instructor, and a business adviser at the center.

“Even a bad economy presents a good opportunity for somebody,” Dunn said. “What we attempt to teach people is to see that opportunity, and how to gain their share market. Some of these people are those who are unemployed and have to create a job.”

That’s exactly the predicament Gena Hulse of Gloversville found herself in after being laid off as a health care worker. She found her way to Dunn’s class through a Self Employment Program at the Department of Labor.

“When I was laid off I got unemployment, but my husband is disabled. Our last option was possibly making a go of our own business,” said Hulse, who opened her business, Annie’s Closet, in January, that sells and buys used furniture and household goods.

“This class could make the difference between my business succeeding or failing,” she said.

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