As of January, 12.8 million Americans were unemployed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Greg Bivona believes small businesses will provide the solution to getting the national economy going again. He calls it the "growth engine of this country." In fact, there are 25 million small businesses in America, which make up 99 percent of all employers.
"Do you know what's happening with the large businesses?" Bivona asked an audience of close to 50 attending a business forum in the Ehler's Room of Edith Wheeler Memorial Library Thursday. "They're sitting on trillions of dollars. They're not investing yet."
Bivona noted how companies are making huge profits by making people work longer hours for less pay.
"The more we can make small businesses better, the better we'll be," said Bivona, who is co-chairman of the Bridgeport chapter of SCORE, counselors to America's small businesses.
SCORE's members used to primarily be retired executives, but now a mix of retired and active professionals from a variety of fields share their expertise with small business owners on such topics as crafting a business plan, a marketing plan and managing risk.
Bivona was joined by Bill McLeod, a mentor with SCORE, at the forum hosted by the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, the Monroe Economic Development Commission and Edith Wheeler Memorial Library.
"We're all volunteers," Bivona said. "Some of us are retired and some continue to work part-time or full-time. Our intent is to help small businesses get started and get better."
New businesses can use all the help they can get. Bivona said there is a large failure rate for the new ventures. Eighty percent of new businesses fail within the first five years and, of the remaining 20 percent, another 80 percent fail over the next five years, according to Bivona.
The primary reason a business fails is due to a lack of capital, he said. Bivona stressed how vital having a good business plan is when seeking investors.
"We won't write a business plan for you, but we have templates and we can help," he said.
Encouraging Business in Monroe
Monroe Chamber of Commerce President Ray Giovanni is president of the in town and a member of SCORE. He said the chamber will be offering programs to educate and inform its member businesses.
"We're really happy to have them in our corner donating their time," Giovanni said of SCORE.
The Monroe Chamber of Commerce is teaming up with the EDC on events promoting businesses in town and Economic Development Coordinator Teri Rotella is also getting involved. The joint effort is encouraged by First Selectman Steve Vavrek to bring new businesses to Monroe and to keep existing ones.
It doesn't stop there. Lorna Rhyans, adult services librarian at Edith Wheeler Memorial, told the audience at the forum how the library provides assistance. It has a Business & Career Center with guides to doing your taxes and on networking, as well as referance books and pamphlets.
The library has the search engine Reference USA, a data base with in-depth information on all types of businesses, and Morningstar with information on stocks and bonds.
"The library funds this, so you don't have to," Rhyins said.
SCORE plans to hold more events at Edith Wheeler Memorial Library, including Business Basics on Feb. 28 and a Funding, Credit & Bankers panel on March 27. Both begin at 6:30 p.m.
Lee Hossler, chairman of the EDC, encouraged people to visit its website MonroeMeansBusiness.com. The site has many links to information on topics such as how to finance your business, finding a job and enhancing your career, and recruiting, managing and training your workforce.
"Please take advantage of this," Hossler said. "It's all about options and options and options."
Vavrek said, "In this economy, you can't just sit there and expect people to come to your business. We're trying to make things better for business. We've got the best library out there, a great chamber, a great EDC ... and hopefully the first selectman is okay," he joked.