State Rep. Robin Green, R-Marlborough, wants to create a one-stop shop for first-time entrepreneurs who are looking to start their own business.
Her bill, which she calls “Biz in a Box,” would connect potential small business owners with a mentor who can guide them through all the financial necessities and bureaucratic requirements that come with opening anything from a massage studio to a daycare center.
Green said that the idea came from her own experience starting a business. Twenty years ago, she said, she founded Discovery Zone Learning Center, a daycare center with three locations in Hartford County.
“When you first start a business, you’re kind of just blind,” said Green.
Green said that over the years, staffers had come to her saying they wanted to start candle-making or soap-making businesses. Green had to explain to them that it’s not as simple as having a product and selling it, they would need to obtain a license, get tax information, ID numbers and insurance.
“It’s challenging to figure out what you need,” she said. “I know as a business owner, you’re kind of stumped… Where do I start?”
Ideally, said Green, the state would be able to partner with mentoring programs that already exist, like the ones run by the U.S. Small Business Association. Green envisions establishing a clearinghouse where people could have a conversation with someone who would guide them through the necessary steps. She said one way might be to set up a hotline that would connect people to these mentoring programs.
A mentor could also help with what Green considers the biggest challenge of starting a business — funding.
When Green first tried to obtain a bank loan for her business, she said, opening a childcare center was considered too risky and banks declined to finance her.
“Most of us, when we start a business, we take out a second mortgage and max out our credit cards,” said Green.
Places like the SBA, Green said, offer microloans, but many people wouldn’t know that those exist, or think that those could be helpful. Yet a loan of $25,000 or $50,000, said Green, could be enough to help out with office space or advertising costs for someone who needed to publicize their business, especially for those just starting out.
Green sees her bill as an important stimulus for the state’s business community. She said that having this clearinghouse as a resource could take away some of the intimidation that people feel. The result could be more businesses in the state and the opportunity for businesses to grow.
“I think in today’s economy, small businesses are the backbone,” she said, adding that some of the most successful businesses in the world started out small.
“If there’s something you love and you love what you do, you’ll find a way to keep doing it,” said Green.