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In 2015, the Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center (SBDC) advised 581 business start-ups and existing businesses – up from 568 counseled in 2014.

Last year, one particular client, Scott Gilbert, owner of Gresco Marketing, asked the SBDC for assistance with his marketing business. I asked Scott to share his experience working with the SBDC.

Cervantes: What circumstances led you to the Napa-Sonoma SBDC?

Gilbert: I was seeking guidance as I prepared to file my federal income taxes as a sole proprietor for the first time. In the past, my Dad had helped me out with this (maybe a little too much – he was absorbing many tax burdens of the business himself).

I was referred to an excellent tax professional to work with locally. I wanted to make sure I was prepared and organized before our meeting. I Google searched “business advice” and came upon the Napa SBDC website.

How was your experience working with a Napa-Sonoma Business Advisor?

I had the good fortune of working with both Sandy Stelter and Jerry Jinnett. It has been a fantastic experience and I feel privileged that they’ve been willing to spend their time giving me business advice.

Though I’ve been serving clients for over four years, there were some very basic elements of my business I had not organized properly. Both Jerry and Sandy have many years of business experience and are both successful entrepreneurs in their own right. Learning from them has been an overwhelmingly positive experience.

How did the SBDC help your business?

In my first meeting, I met with Jerry Jinnett. She was incredibly patient as I rambled on about how my business was set up. She helped me attend to the urgent issue of making sure my accounting was in proper order.

I was actually doing better than I realized. Still, I wasn’t in the habit of keeping all of my receipts and properly categorizing my expenses in my accounting software. She walked me through some best practices. That stuff is really important for any sole proprietor or small business owner.

I also explained that I was hoping to clarify my business goals for the next year and beyond. She walked me through a very thorough document about how to write a business plan. I already had a general plan and strategy for my business, but hadn’t put an official “business plan” on paper. We worked through this document together.

She also had some really great ideas for how I could market myself and my business. We met once a month or so, starting in September. She has helped me to prioritize tasks, then strategize a methodology for completion.

I’m very capable of self-starting, but it’s also a great asset to have someone to bounce ideas off of and hold you accountable for the business goals you are trying to achieve.

Thank you, Scott, for sharing your experience working with the SBDC.

If you are a business owner in need of assistance, contact the Napa-Sonoma SBDC at 707-256-7250 or sign up for services at napasonomasbdc.org.

Mary Cervantes is the business services director for Napa Valley College Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center. Reach her at 256-7253 or mcervantes@napavalley.edu.

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