“Small business is the backbone of our economy.” #SFSBW2015 Interview with the Office of Small Business
#SFSBW2015 asked small business owners and the organizations that support them throughout the year to share insights, best practices, stories and resources to help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from Regina Dick-Endrizzi, Executive Director, Office of Small Business.
Tell us about your organization in one sentence.
The Office of Small Business along with the San Francisco Business Portal function as the City’s central point of information to assist small businesses by providing direct services through customized one-on-one assistance, collaborations with other City agencies and referrals to various small business resources to help San Francisco businesses succeed and flourish.
San Francisco is changing, and the changes are challenging for many small business owners. What is your organization doing to help small business owners navigate today’s increasingly competitive marketplace?
The Office of Small Business has many resources and collaboration partners to help small businesses and entrepreneurs manage and grow their businesses. Some of our resources include referrals to workshops on how to build and strengthen your business, free legal and expert advice that can guide business through legal pitfalls, and neighborhood economic development organizations (NEDO’s) that can assist you to develop a small business plan, access financing, craft marketing strategies, assess business operations and growth strategies. In addition, our online Business Portal provides information, resources, links and tools to easily help you navigate through each stage of your business development.
There’s been a growing trend of new generation of small businesses that are transforming the city’s commercial concepts. What is your organization doing to support these new and younger small business owners who are starting out today?
We provide each client with professional, customized assistance, and business-friendly resources appropriate to their needs. As new small business owners emerge with unique and innovative business ideas, we help them research and navigate the rules and regulations of their business proposal to ensure compliance. Or when the business proposal falls outside current codes and regulations, we work with the business owner and city agencies to think creatively about how to make the idea work.
By doing so, we can encourage the new wave of entrepreneurs and small business owners to move their ideas from dream to reality.
Many organizations struggle to keep up with the changes in technology, branding, and social media. Please describe one of your organization’s innovations. How has this enhanced way you reach and serve your clients or members?
In Fall 2014, the Office of Small Business in collaboration with the Mayor’s Office, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and the Department of Technology launched The San Francisco Business Portal, the city’s premier online business resource. Our new Business Portal helps users easily navigate the steps to start, manage, and grow a business. It provides comprehensive information and tailored tools, including a permits and licenses section allowing users to select a business type and get a list of the required permits and licenses. The Portal allows users to quickly learn what it takes to plan a business, be compliant, and access a myriad of business resources along the way. The Business Portal is accessible to the public world-wide and has enhanced the way we deliver services. It’s a great starting point for anyone, anywhere, at any hour, to access information online on starting, managing, and growing a business in San Francisco.
What are some of the suggestions you would like to share with small business owners to help them succeed in the current climate?
Be flexible. Be adaptable. Don’t fight change, embrace it. Review your business plan often, and if you don’t have one create one. Get help. There are a number of free and low-cost city funded business resources to help businesses with the many aspects of running a business. For example, business owners can access free professional business consultants to help them analyze their business, review their cash flow, improve sales, better market their business and engage with customers through social media. There is also free and low cost legal assistance to help businesses with legal matters such as contracts and leases. In this current climate it is very important to have a sound lease to protect you. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Seek assistance early on. We are here to help you, and there is likely a city resource available to assist with your need.
For start-up businesses, I would say do your homework. Visit us, either online first at The San Francisco Business Portal, or in person at the Office of Small Business. We provide one-on-one assistance, including an overview of important considerations for starting a business, including a customized checklist of the registration, permit and license requirements. We also connect entrepreneurs with our city funded business resource providers for help developing a business plan, access to finance, and other technical assistance. Lastly I would suggest the entrepreneur and business owner stay engaged with our office. We understand that a business doesn’t develop overnight and it is a work in progress. Once you visit our office and meet with a case manager, you will be input into our system and we can continue to work with you through the many stages of business development.
What is the most important belief or principle that guides your work and the trajectory of your organization?
The belief is that small business is the backbone of our economy. Small businesses account for over 90% of business in San Francisco. They create jobs and employ our residents. They are members of our communities and make up much of our neighborhood commercial corridors. San Francisco would not be the unique and vibrant city it is without small business. For these reasons and more it is the mission of the Office of Small Business, directed by the Small Business Commission to work to provide an environment where small businesses can succeed and flourish.
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