Local entities offer advice to small businesses

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While working in auto repair shops, Landon Torres noticed that local customers faced long wait times. He launched the Texland Collision Center to fill the void.

“My wife and I have been in and out of the collision repair industry in Midland-Odessa for 10 years now,” Torres said. “I worked in the neighborhood department stores. I saw the need for another store in the area because there was such a backlog.

When Torres first asked for advice, he turned to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Texas in the Permian Basin. The center is one of the many local entities that help people who want to start or grow small businesses.


The SBDC is results-driven, according to regional director Enrique Romero. In fiscal 2016, the agency played a role in opening 38 businesses and creating 140 jobs in Midland.

The regional figures have caught the attention of other SBDC sites across the country, Romero said. He said the local office has exceeded its targets in recent years as it focuses on helping businesses receive funds.

“We are using common sense,” Romero said. “90% of the people who walk through our door want money.”

One of those clients was Debra Holt, who needed a clear business plan to present to a bank. She said SBDC’s advice helped her secure a loan to start a franchise for Nothing Bundt Cakes bakery.

“I went there on the recommendation of a bank,” Holt said. “[The] the bank advised me because I was naive in thinking that I would get my loan.

The Midland Development Corp. became another source of funding when she approved an interlocal deal with SBDC to launch an entrepreneurial challenge. MDC provides a total of $ 250,000 in financing to four or five companies in fiscal 2017.

“I hope to encourage new types of businesses and technologies like there are in Austin,” Romero said. “We may not see them in Midland. I hope to spark creativity. The region is known for oil and gas, but we could see a different resurgence. “

Romero said the program is not designed for all businesses as it requires that at least 50% of the company’s sales come from outside the Midland region within the third year of receiving the funds.

“The goal is not to fund another food truck or an insurance agency,” Romero said. “The goal is to attract new capital from outside the region. This is called economic development.

But capital is not a priority for everyone who wants to start or grow small businesses.

Mabel Reyes came to SBDC with a desire to bring authentic Mexican cuisine to Northwest Midland. The consultations helped her husband, Alvaro Reyes, secure space for his new restaurant, Don Tomas Café.

“The Borgata shopping center is not an easily accessible place,” said Mabel Reyes. “It takes a lot of a business plan. Because we don’t have a restaurant history and we’re not a franchise, they wanted a business plan.

For people with entrepreneurial dreams, the Midland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (MHCC) has an incubator program. The program, which had 19 graduates in February, provides participants with counseling, office space and access to equipment in the South Marienfield Street building of the chamber.

“The idea is to get enough capital to start on their own,” said Rachel L. Stone, president and CEO of the chamber. “When they start it’s just them, and when they leave they have two or three more [employees]. “

The chamber offers free consultations on taxes, business registration and other topics. Stone said businesses – ranging from construction to cake decorating businesses – are making a difference in the region.

“Statistically, small businesses are what keeps our economy thriving,” Stone said. “I’m talking to the mayor or whoever will listen to me that there are incentives for big business and oil companies. When the crisis occurs, small businesses stay. This is their home.

In its consultations with clients, the MHCC also emphasizes the fluctuating nature of the Midland economy in its consultations with clients.

“We encourage a lot of companies to build relationships with other types of businesses and not put all of their eggs in one basket,” Stone said. “I tell people when it comes to networking. People say, “I’m busy. I don’t need more business. It won’t always be that way. This is West Texas. There is going to be this lull or this crisis.

According to Romero and Paul McCord, business and housing advisers at Midland College’s Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC), more people are seeking small business advisory services during times of economic downturn. They said some people are motivated to become entrepreneurs when faced with layoffs.

This year, Romero has noticed some motivations for clients who turn to SBDC.

“We’re starting to see the types of projects that we saw in 2012 before the boom,” Romero said. “We’re starting to see people wanting loans for bigger projects, and they want to be transferred from their employer. They’ve been doing for a month and a half what they haven’t done for two years.

The SBDC is funded by the federal and state governments as well as the cities of Midland and Odessa. Romero estimates that consulting services for businesses in the 16-county service area would cost around $ 100 an hour.

The BEDC – funded by the college, a grant from the City of Midland and some local banks – primarily advises Midland County businesses, according to McCord.

“Most of the customers tend to come from the local community here on the south side,” McCord said. “We start with basic things like helping them improve their credit so they can get a business loan. … We help them discover and understand demographics, their competition and how they fit in the market.

This type of research was useful to Tucker Schneemann, who visited SBDC before launching Cryo Life –Midland. As a former high school coach and varsity athlete, Schneemann wanted to open a business specializing in two pain relief treatments, cryotherapy and compression massage therapy.

“They sat down and handled all the numbers the company could find for the expenses,” Schneemann said. “We walked through each location before it was time to sign my lease. “

Schneemann opened his center this year, but he joins some established business owners in his appreciation of the SBDC consultations. The advice has helped Epic Collision Services in Odessa, which has grown from four to 22 employees since 2013.

“It’s a great tool for many people starting a business,” said Gilbert Ramirez, co-owner of the auto body repair facility with his wife, Rosie. “We knew how to work in a business, but not on the business side. It’s a huge difference knowing how to do what you do with the numbers, taxes, government regulations, employee benefits – all the things the SBDC mentors and helps you with.


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