“We mainly help professionals who have a great idea, and I find that my experience helps them start a business in the correct way,” said Gary Bucek, a business adviser at the SBDC.
The SBDC, which has a site at the Pearland Chamber of Commerce, helps clients launch businesses, advises them on mergers and acquisitions, helps entrepreneurs find funding and walks them through the paperwork. All services are offered at no cost to the client.
The SBDC receives funding from San Jacinto College, the University of Houston and the state. The center is also part of the Texas Gulf Coast Network.
“We are all former business owners and we have made every mistake in the book. We try to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself,” Bucek said.
By helping small businesses, the SBDC helps the city of Pearland as well, said Matt Buchanan, executive manager of development services.
“They’re just a great asset to have in the community to help with our small businesses,” Buchanan said.
“Gary has been like a mentor for us in a lot of ways,” said Janet Rogers, co-owner of Creative Edge Art Studio.
Bucek is working to launch Paradise Family Entertainment Center in Pearland, a $10 million project that will include bowling, laser tag, an arcade and other attractions.
The most important step to starting a business is creating a business plan, which outlines the goals and timelines, Bucek said.
“You live and die by that business plan,” Bucek said. “You need the business plan because sometimes when you’re in the middle of a business … and you’re overwhelmed, you can just look back at your business plan.”
The business plan helps the entrepreneur outline the more practical elements of starting a business, such as feasibility, finances and business structure as well as the entrepreneur’s goals.
Because the business plan outlines financial goals, the business owner knows when he or she will start making a profit, and how many months that should take.
“Just because you have opened the doors doesn’t mean you will start making money,” Bucek said. “We have set these goals and that’s the fun part. Now let’s make them happen.”
Exiting a business is something owners rarely think about, but it must be considered because every business can be in danger of folding or of losing business partners who are integral to the business’ early success, Bucek said.
Often, Bucek will point entrepreneurs toward resources and people who can help. An example is Clarence Sirmons, development coordinator for the city of Pearland, who primarily helps small-business owners with the location of their business. This can include meeting with the engineering department, public works, planning, fire marshal, and parks and recreation department to make sure that all necessary steps are taken to get a permit.
“Gary is a good bridge between my office and the people in the community looking to start a small business,” Sirmons said.
By serving as a consultant, Bucek is pointing small business starters toward the resources they would need, rather than leaving entrepreneurs to guess.
“I’m so passionate about business that I like to live vicariously through my clients,” Bucek said. “I wish I would have had [this service] when I was in business.”