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Showcase gathers resources for small businesses

Back: Melanie Bauer-Dukart, Darrell Neubert, Dave Kleppe, Sherri Komrosky, Lexi Preszler, Claus Lembke. Front: Deb Nelson, Ryan Jilek, Diedre Hillman and Roxi Pfliinger, speakers and organizers of Stay Small, Play Large, a small business education conference held in Dickinson Thursday. Iain Woessner / The Dickinson Press

When it comes to starting a business, often the toughest question is 'where to start?'

To answer that question, DLN Consulting and the Stark Development Corporation in conjunction with Vision West ND, SCORE, Dickinson State University and the Center for Technology and Business held a confebrence on Thursday, Feb. 22, to provide information and resources to aspiring businesses in the area.

"What Vision West North Dakota is all about is economic diversification and community sustainability, that's helping small businesses be sustainable so the community can be sustainable," Deb Nelson of DLN Consulting and a chief organizer of the event said. "A lot of it is, honestly, the concern we heard about that a lot of businesses in town don't know what resources are available to them."

That concern was echoed in qualitative research projects like one conducted by the Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Investment Fund last year. That research, spearheaded by Shirley Brentrup, saw two different focus groups, consisting of small business owners and lenders respectively, describe two very different ideas of North Dakota's economic landscape.

"It's like they weren't even in the same town," Brentrup said. "You will find the small businesses that participated in the focus groups felt that there were little if any programs for them."

In meeting those concerns, Nelson brought together a host of presenters and speakers from agencies that provide help for businesses, from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Stark Development Corporation, and Dakota Business Lending. The all-day event had seminars and presentations that provided detailed information to would-be business owners.

"This is the first time in a long time where we've all been together," Sherri Komrosky, business opportunity specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration, said. "(Nelson) even brought in USDA, she brought in North Dakota Business Lending, so for small businesses, what an opportunity (this is) to find out about the free opportunities out there."

This event, titled Stay Small, Play Large, provided some fundamental resources to help prospective newcomers to the Dickinson area learn the best way to get a foothold in the business scene. Monica Ranada and her husband are moving to Dickinson from California. Ranada is a registered nurse and her husband is a physician—they want to open a small medical care business, so Ranada attended the event to help guide their new company in the right direction.

"We're thinking of moving our business over here and starting a new business ... that's why I'm here, to do some research, to know my resources here. It's very different in California," Ranada said. "But we love it here, we love the culture, the heritage, the people—and we just feel at home. This is like our second home."

The resources available to small businesses showcased at the event include specialty services and guidance for inventors, product-based entrepreneurs and women entrepreneurs to launch, advance and sustain their businesses through the Center for Technology and Business. Dakota Business Lending offers flexible and customized loans as an alternative to conventional financing. The North Dakota Small Business Development centers offer one-on-one advising services at no cost to eligible clients.

"I would recommend that (small business owners) contact Stark Development Corporation here in town," Nelson said. "They will ... they have a wonderful ability to set you up with every one of these agencies. Or you can contact my offices, DLN Consulting."