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Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center: The Power of a Practical Business Plan

#SFSBW2019 asked some of our resources to share insights, best practices, and examples of how they help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from Paul Terry, Senior Business Consultant at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. 

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center san francisco small business week

What is Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center’s Mission?

To empower and increase the entrepreneurial capabilities of socially and economically diverse women and men and thereby strengthen our communities through the creation of sustainable new businesses, new jobs, and promotion of financial self-sufficiency.

What are your organization’s recent accomplishments that demonstrate how you have helped the small business community?

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center provides training and business support services throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including in San Francisco, Mid-Peninsula and Richmond. Over the past five years, Renaissance has added more Spanish-language programming to our services, enhanced our services for women entrepreneurs and expanded into new territories including Santa Clara and East Contra Costa counties.

What tools and resources have Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center created to help small businesses tap into new opportunities to reach new customers, increase their revenue, and grow their business?

Renaissance offers a variety of classes, workshops, and one-on-one consulting support to entrepreneurs and small business owners to help them reach their target market and grow their businesses. The intensive 12-week Business Planning Class at Renaissance’s SoMa location helps emerging entrepreneurs create a practical, effective business plan AND develop the knowledge and skills necessary to launch and develop their businesses. This class covers every aspect of starting and developing a small business, from marketing and management to finances and record keeping. Students receive course content and one-on-one support from expert instructors and small business owners, learning alongside a cohort of entrepreneurs who are all in the same boat – launching and growing businesses. This supportive environment structured around the deliverable of a practical business plan creates a foundation for success.

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center business planning class san francisco small business week

What is your organization doing to attract and support new and younger small business owners? What resources do you offer to entrepreneurs and small businesses to get started?

In addition to Business Planning and Lean Start-up intensives, Renaissance offers a variety of workshops and speaker series (with many offerings in Spanish) to meet the needs of local entrepreneurs and help them get started and grow their business. Upcoming workshops include online marketing, operations for food businesses, product pricing, bookkeeping, legal contracts, starting an online fashion business, and many more. At Renaissance, we also have a huge community of small business owners who have grown their businesses with the support of Renaissance and “pay it forward” by mentoring current Renaissance students. Mentorship from other business owners who have first-hand experience “in the trenches” is a critical component for success for any new small business owner.

San Francisco is known for its diverse culture. How does Renaissance Entrepreneurship ensure that the small businesses that make this city unique are able to stay in San Francisco?

The cost of living and working in San Francisco makes it very challenging to start and run a small business in the city. In addition to classes and workshops for entrepreneurs that provide the business knowledge and know-how necessary to launch and sustain a business, Renaissance provides many of its clients with one-on-one consulting support so that they can get support directly targeted to their needs.

Renaissance’s location in the Bayview is focused specifically on supporting small businesses in the Bayview, Hunter’s Point and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods of San Francisco. Renaissance has an initiative to support small businesses in the construction sector to build their business capacities, technical skills, and networks in order to compete more effectively in the local economy, accelerate their business growth and increase their net profits. We also operate a program specifically for small businesses on Third Street in the Bayview and Leland Avenue in Visitacion Valley to sustain and grow their small businesses, as well as a 12-week intensive for women entrepreneurs in the Bayview Hunters Point community, providing training, mentorship, peer support and networking.

Part of Renaissance’s mission is also to increase and improve the small business community’s access to capital. Renaissance helps entrepreneurs secure small business loans for their businesses, typically in the $5,000 to $250,000 range.

Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center san francisco small business week

What words of advice or wisdom would you like to share with small business owners?

Risks always exist in business. However, you can reduce those risks if you set aside time for planning and working ON your business, not just IN your business. This means defining/re-defining your offerings, doing market research, recognizing the essential management skills needed at each stage of your business, and understanding your financials so that you can create realistic financial projections.

Building a successful business takes a village, even if you are a solo business owner. You must get out there and connect with people and learn from them – your customers or clients, the competition, small business mentors and support professionals. You must be constantly testing what you think you know. You have to be open to new ideas, be willing to learn from your mistakes and pivot when change is necessary. Doing the research, analyzing your operation and getting support from others who have gone through similar experiences, will give you the confidence to continue with the business and take the steps necessary to thrive.

We highly recommend that small business owners take Renaissance SoMa’s 12-week Business Planning Class! Within the framework of the class you will do all of the above and more. You will also graduate with a business plan — an operational management tool, a marketing plan, financial projections, and a means of communicating your business to others. A business plan doesn’t guarantee success, but it can help prevent serious mistakes. With a clear plan, you will be well situated to stay attentive to the important details of your business and to new directions and business growth.

Please share with us some real-life examples of how you’ve supported small businesses.

“From pricing and positioning to understanding ROIS and subsequent strategy development, my brand wouldn’t be what it is without The Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. They provided me with the footing to build an enduring company in a challenging market.”
– Melissa Joy Manning, CEO/Founder of Melissa Joy Manning, INC

“After struggling for 18 years with my design+build company I decided to get serious and take Renaissance’s Business Planning Class. Three years later my business has doubled, I’ve hired new employees and have more free time to enjoy our success, what else could I ask for?!”
– Kyle Minor, Owner of Kyle Minor Design

“What I learned in the Renaissance Business Planning Class helped me to evaluate if my business would be more successful in a different location. It also helped me decide to pivot my offerings to match what clients wanted. I went from operating at a loss to running a high-profit business with three full-time employees.”
– Kate Ellen Murphy, Owner of Crown Nine Jewelry

“The Renaissance Business Planning class provided a perfect opportunity for me to explore the potential to launch a dream product. By putting the work in ahead of time, I was able to determine that my product would not be commercially successful before wasting too much time and effort. Renaissance staff helped me turn my “failure” into a success by re-focusing my efforts on improving my current business.”
– Tracy C. Lemmon Esq., Lemmon Employment Law & Conflict Resolution

“The Renaissance Business Planning Class and the Renaissance Center for Entrepreneurship has been integral in the growth of my business. Each step of our growth has a direct correlation to lessons learned in class as well as the support felt from staff and fellow classmates. The hours spent at the Ren Center planning and thinking about the ultimate goals for my business are some of the most valuable time spent as a business owner.”
– Gillian Shaw, Owner of Black Jet Baking Company

“Although I had a college degree and years of experience working at Fortune 500 companies, I was unprepared to run a business. The Business Planning Class along with all the other resources at Renaissance gave me the skills, resources, and confidence to start and grow my business. And also avoid some of the mistakes that first-time business owners make.”
– Judi Townsend, Owner of Mannequin Madness

“The business planning class helped me accurately put together a plan for growth and hiring my first employees. As I continue to operate Bay Thread I put into practice the valuable financial worksheets we received and apply what I learned to create a positive impact for our team!”
– Eloisa Serrano, Owner of Bay Thread

“Renaissance helped me organize my ideas into a concise and coherent plan and helped me determine the feasibility of my business. It was these first steps that helped me realize that I could actually open my business. Being in the program with classmates who had similar goals was encouraging and inspirational. I’m truly grateful for Renaissance’s support and expertise.”
– Viet Vu, President and Founder of Hoi Polloi Brewing

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