When April Hall Cutting and her husband, Craig, started Wild Yeast Bakery out of their home in 2013, they were like a lot of other new businesses owners — not quite sure what they were doing.
To fill that gap, they started taking classes at the Linn-Benton Community College Small Business Development Center.
“We just needed some help because we’d never run a small business ourselves,” April said.
Small Business Development Center Director Charlie Mitchell knows a lot of people like the Hall Cuttings who need a one-stop shop for business basics, not just in the mid-valley but statewide. There's an SBDC on every community college campus in the state and one at each major university, bringing the total to 19 centers providing free one-on-one business advising.
“It’s just like becoming a parent. You don’t have to take any classes to become a parent, you just become a parent,” Mitchell said. “It’s the same with business. You can just open a business and you can have no education to really get there. We all know there’s a fairly high failure rate for small businesses as we try to change that by helping them be more successful.”
One of the more recent ways the SBDC is attempting to cultivate success is by adding a Spanish-speaking adviser to its ranks. Anielis Raas hasn’t quite jumped in with both feet just yet but she said she’s excited about filling the position, which Mitchell said has become a revolving door.
“What happens is, they get employed full-time,” Mitchell said, noting that the position with the SBDC is part-time.
But Raas has no plans to jump ship. She already runs her own clothing business and in a few weeks’ time will finish her master’s degree in business administration.
When she does start at the SBDC, her official title will be the Latino Business Adviser and she’ll take on a host of projects. Aside from teaching classes and holding one-on-one advising sessions, she’ll evaluate the current classes the center offers.
“They have the same class taught in English and Spanish,” she said. “I think there could be differences because I think you have to adapt to your audience. In my book, there’s no direct translation and it shouldn’t be a literal translation. You can do that on Google. If I’m trying to get through to you in English, I might say it differently than I would in Spanish.”
According to Raas, there’s a demand for information in Spanish on how to start and maintain a small business, from how to get access to capital to how to create a business plan.
According to Mitchell, 60 percent of the center’s students are already business owners and so any aid they receive from the center contributes to the success of an existing community business.
“Here’s the typical trend: Someone starts a business because they’re good at something or have a good idea,” he said. “As they grow the business over time, they find that their best role really should be as a manager, but since day one they had to do everything, and they’re still doing everything. I always say: work on your business, not in your business.”
Cutting is learning to do just that. Wild Yeast Bakery still operates out of her home, but what started as a buy-in to the artisan bread craze a few years ago has grown into a stable business looking for a brick-and-mortar space in Corvallis. And they'll again turn to the SBDC to help them.
“We don’t know anything about real estate,” she said. “But the business development center is helpful and we have a network of people from taking classes that we can reach out to.”