Influencing Entrepreneurial Growth Across Central Texas: Our Meeting with the McLennan SBDC
The McLennan Small Business Development Center serves as a vital resource for entrepreneurs and innovators in Central Texas. The organization is staffed with experts providing business counseling, referrals and networking events at low or no cost to the entrepreneur. We had the chance to meet with Steve Surguy, McLennan SBDC Director, to gain insight on what the SBDC has to offer.
Will you tell us a little bit about yourself, and the Small Business Development Center?
The SBDC has been hosted by MCC since 1989. We service seven counties, and have three counselors on staff. Our job primarily, as dictated through the SBA, is to service entrepreneurs. That includes startup businesses, existing businesses or people who just have an idea and might need crystallization and validation for it. We work with all types of businesses – manufacturing, retail, wholesale and high-tech. We don’t turn anyone down.
Do you think people cease to be an entrepreneur once they’ve made it through the startup phase?
No, they’re an entrepreneur as long as they’re in business, because everybody starts somewhere. Everybody starts with that idea. Even large businesses are started by a single individual who came up with an idea — he was an entrepreneur. So, we look at everyone as an entrepreneur. Granted, there are a lot of startups here in Waco, but there are plenty of existing businesses that need assistance. They might think: Do we need to expand? Are we in the right markets? Is our product line correct? And financially: We need to get a loan, how do we do that? It’s a matter of taking people from cradle to grave – from a concept and a startup to the time they sell the business and exit it.
So you have clients you’ve worked with over that kind of a journey?
We have. We have taken people who’ve started with just an idea, who’ve brought their business online, have matured their business and then sold it. We help facilitate that entire process. We hope when they sell the business that we’re working with the individual they’re selling to. But if not, we look at helping them value their businesses — that’s a service we’re just working on starting. It’ll be coming online later this summer: we’ll offer business valuations for people who are looking to buy a business or looking to sell, so it works both ways.
How do you see Start Up Waco making the business community more complete and vibrant?
I see Start Up Waco as the beginning of a more collaborative effort between the different entities here in Waco that provide services to the entrepreneurs. For instance, in the past we’ve not had anywhere that we could send someone who wanted a business incubator or a coworking space. Now we’ve got Start Up Waco and another entity down the street, WacoWork. We have people come in and ask if they have to go to Dallas or Austin to go to an incubator. No, Waco has one now. We have someone who can partner up on that. You need to take advantage of all the services that are now going to be available here in Waco. I think by working together, we will grow the overall economy and entrepreneur market here in Waco.
One of the things that intrigues me about SBDC, that brings special value, is that we want integration. We don’t want people just to be in their own little neighborhoods. Sometimes that occurs along racial lines and other socioeconomic divisions — but the SBDC serves everybody.
We work very closely with the Cen-Tex African American Chamber and the Hispanic Chamber, along with all the regular chambers within Waco, the Metroplex and the surrounding area. We attend and participate in events. The African American Chamber is very active in putting on events, and we’re always involved. The Hispanic Chamber has not put on as many events, but we stay involved. We want them to understand that they have more options with Start Up Waco — that it’s not limited to just those events.
Any other thoughts you have for the folks in Waco who want to see the city continue to progress economically? What’s your takeaway message?
You know, I think Waco is well on its way. I’ve been in the McLennan SBDC for six years. I’ve seen it go from from all food trucks, babysitters, daycare centers and tradesmen into more market centric business — permanent brick-and-mortars that expand the scope of the market in Waco as a whole. People used to say, “I just want to run my own daycare here.” Now, it sounds like, “I want to help Waco grow. I want to do something something to develop a particular segment of Waco, whether it’s Downtown or East Waco.” People are coming in with a larger picture in mind now. I think that’s a natural progression that started several years ago, and it’s growing. Start Up Waco will help that.