Group helps small businesses get started

Group helps small businesses get started

Grow! Highland County helps small businesses establish themselves

Story by Jane Beathard

Photos courtesy of Grow! Highland County

When Lynchburg resident Kati Luschek sought to turn her long-time love of fashion into a business, she asked Tracy Evans at Grow! Highland County for help.

The non-profit organization links a wide variety of aspiring and current small business owners in Highland County with resources they need to start, expand or improve their businesses. All services are free and totally confidential, said Evans.

In Luschek’s case, it meant long talks and introductions to people who helped her develop a website, produce advertising and host a video conference before opening Country Culture, the fashion boutique she debuted in 2020.

“She hooked me up with the right people,” Luschek said.

With the pandemic in full blow, last year might not have been the best time to start a retail business. But in Highland County, the opposite was true.

“I was busy from April to October,” Evans said. “So many people were laid off and wanted to start something (of their own).”

At the same time, people were trending toward small and local businesses, Luschek added.

Grow! Highland County was founded about 11 years ago by a group of local community members seeking to foster entrepreneurship and small business growth in the county, according to the organization’s website. Evans is the facilitator.

Since its inception, the organization has worked with 201 clients. It helped start 67 new businesses; aided 22 expansions of existing businesses and kept 21 more going. Those clients ranged from neighborhood diners to restaurants and boutiques.

It was successful from the start. But the last five years have been especially good, Evans said.

She advises aspiring entrepreneurs to have the time to devote to a project and to “never give up” if things don’t work out initially.

Along with that advice, she encourages clients to research the kinds of business they want to start and check to see if there are competitors in the area.

Here are Evans’ additional tips:

• Have a plan with financial projections for the business. Generally, banks won’t lend money on proposed projects unless there is a business plan. If that seems intimidating, budding business owners can find template plans on the internet. The Ohio State University also provides business plan templates free of charge.

• Register the business with the Ohio Secretary of State to determine its legality. Folks in that office will determine if the name is available and which legal structure is best for the enterprise.

• Check on zoning restrictions — if any — and what kinds of licenses and permits are required for the business.

• Look into patent or copyright requirements — especially if the name was invented or developed by the entrepreneur.

• Next, talk to a banker about financing.

• Then, register the business with the appropriate taxing agencies and obtain a tax identification number. Those agencies include the Internal Revenue Service, Ohio Department of Taxation and any local tax departments.

• If there are employees, register the business with the Ohio Department of Workers’ Compensation, as well as the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, in case a situation like the pandemic arises and those employees need unemployment benefits.

• Having a licensed attorney and accountant at the start up is always good.

• Be sure to insure the building — even if it is rented — for added protection.

Evans numbers the 62 Classic Diner in Hillsboro, Saucy Sisters Pizza and Hunny Hive in Leesburg, and Country Culture in Lynchburg among her success stories. She even helped a 15-year-old girl start a snowcone cart business that serves local events in the summer. In wintertime, the cart owner substitutes hot chocolate for the icy cones.

“Small businesses are the ‘brick and mortar’ of a community,” she said.

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