SBDC/AEDC join up to help small business

By Jennifer Hannigan, TVCC Public Information

Athens Texas LogoA new partnership between two Athens agencies could result in big dollars for one budding entrepreneur.

For more than a year, the Small Business Development Center and the Athens Economic Development Corporation have been neighbors in the Athens Partnership Center. Earlier this year, AEDC President Brian Malone and SBDC Director Mike Ellsberry realized their services could work together.

So beginning in February, the two will pool their resources to offer a new program, and their effort will give one business venture $30,000 in startup funds and the training to give a new business owner the tools to succeed.

Malone said the AEDC has been going through a strategic planning process for the past year. During that process, the group has realized it needs to do more to encourage new small businesses in Athens. However, he said, he also wanted to include a way to train new business owners in the specifics of opening an establishment.

“We needed a way to make sure we had qualified people who wanted to begin businesses,” said Malone. “We realized that new business owners who are properly trained have a greater potential for long-term success.”

Meanwhile, at the other end of the building, the SBDC has the resources to train those who want to start a business, but relies on outside sources to fund those new ventures.

“With the economy and banking the way they are, it’s very hard to secure funding for start-ups,” said Ellsberry. The SBDC – a venture of Trinity Valley Community College, the State of Texas, and the U.S. Small Business Administration – provides consulting for new business owners and existing businesses.

Starting on February 19th, the SBDC and AEDC will offer a high-level Going into Business Seminar forsix Tuesdays. The class will run from 5:30-7 p.m.

The course, said Malone and Ellsberry, will be fast paced and will include work both inside and outside of class. Potential business owners will build a full business plan which will address virtually all the significant decisions which need to be made for a start-up.

“This class will be very intensive,” said Malone. “It will not be for the faint of heart, but will provide real training to help a new business succeed.”

At the end of the six weeks, the entrepreneurs who have attended all the classes and completed their business plans will be eligible for consideration for the grant.

The plans will be judged on several criteria, including the potential size of the businesses and if there is a market in Athens for the proposed venture.

“Will the winning business help the community grow? Will it provide a place for future residents to work in Athens?” Malone asked. “We’re looking for businesses that have a real potential to grow and meet the needs in this community.”

For a business venture to be considered, it must be located in the city of Athens and potential owners will be required to meet other criteria as well as possibly undergo a background check before being considered for the grant. Those who currently own businesses but would like to take their current venture in a radically different direction will also be considered.

The cost for the seminar will be $50. For that amount, the attendee will also receive the textbook onwhich the seminar is based, Rhonda Adams’ “Entrepreneurship, a Real World Approach,” and other materials. Attendees will also be coached by an SBDC advisor and will be expected to meet weekly with that person.

Ellsberry said he sees the joint venture being a great way to help encourage new businesses in Athens.

“We are hoping to make this a regular event,” said Ellsberry. “It’s important for us to be collaborative. We’re hoping to build Athens into the future.”

For more information and to sign up for the seminar, contact the SBDC at 903-675-6390 903-675-7403. Pre-registration is required and the deadline is Feb. 12.

Kendall Sanders: Humility, Honesty, Hunger

Kendall
Kendall Sanders concentrates on the ball during practice in Austin.

You are a freshman at the University of Texas, and you just played a part in the Longhorns’ thrilling 31-27 come-from-behind win over Oregon State in the Valero Alamo Bowl. What do you do now?

If you’re Kendall Sanders, you come home to Athens.

The 6-foot, 183-pound former Hornet visited with Henderson County Now this week to talk about what it’s like to play football in Austin — and to no one’s surprise, it’s amazing.

“Just being there, the atmosphere will open your eyes,” he said. “Practice is like Friday nights here.”

“I (stand in awe) a lot,” Sanders said. “When I first got there, I’d do that in practice. Then I got used to it, and we started bowl practices and it hit me again. It’s my first bowl game and I’m at Texas.”

He also learned quickly that he was playing on a different level, talent wise.

“At the All-American game, that’s when I got perspective (on talent),” he said. “Because all those people were All-Americans, all those people were great. I thought, that’s where I’m going to, Texas, where everyone is great, so I just kind of prepared myself there so I wouldn’t be (overwhelmed) when I got to Texas.”

He might have known he was on a different level, but grabbing two interceptions in that U.S. Army All-American Bowl last year also proved he belonged on that level.

He proved it again when he got to Austin and earned a spot on special teams as a true freshman. He also earned time at wide receiver. His first catch came against Wyoming in the season opener and yes, he heard the crowd.

“When I caught that ball, I felt like I had never played football before in my life,” he said with a laugh. “When I caught the ball, I didn’t know what to do. I heard the crowd (roar) and I stopped, and then I went on with the play.”

Like any season, Sanders’ freshman year had ups and downs. Even though he was playing, it was much less than in the past.

“But at the same time, it was a learning experience because I never played just that position,” he said, “so i was learning from the guys in front of me.”

Sanders said that positive spirit comes from God and his family.

My family instilled the three “H’s” in my life: Be Humble, Honest and Hungry,” he said. “So I just try and live by that.”

That ethic also helped Sanders nail down a solid “B” average in the classroom.

And believes he’s at Texas for a reason.

“I believe God led me to Texas. He sets my whole life, and so I’m just following his footsteps,” he said.

Looking forward, the path seems ready for Sanders to take on a bigger role in the offense for the Longhorns next season.

The 18-year-old isn’t surprised, but still manages to be both humble and confident about the future.

“Like I said, God is setting up my road,” he says.