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SBDC offers help to start business

April 30, 2014
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

If you have wondered about starting your own business and need help in how you would go about it, where and how you would become licensed, and whether or not it is a good idea those concerns can be answered with the help of Elvis Collier, a certified business consultant who has been selected to help out those who want to go into business in Lehigh Acres and those who are in business already who may have questions needing answers.

Collier is with the SPDC from Florida Gulf Coast University and is in Lehigh three days a week to offer the services of the present and future business owners of the community.

The acronym SBDC stands for Small Business Development Center and the group serves all of Southwest Florida with business experts like Collier in helping all types of businesses to succeed.

Article Photos

Elvis Collier

There may be someone who has lost his or her job and are unemployed and have come up with an idea and would like to start a business, perhaps manufacturing or selling a product or service. There are many hurdles one must go through before that business can get underway, becoming licensed, meet legal requirements, and much more before one can put his or her shingle out advertising a new business.

That's where people like Elvis Collier come in.

With his education and background, he is able to guide those who are interested in a start-up business, in exactly the how's and do's that are vital. The service provided by the Florida SBDC is housed at Florida Gulf Coast University. There are others like Collier who have been assigned to different areas of the county with the same goals in mind, to help people start a business, and to guide people through questions that may arise after a business venture has been undertaken.

In addition to Collier, others in Lee County in the SBDC program are experts in different fields.

Collier says the first thing he looks for and hopes for is that the person who wants to start a business has a passion for it.

"That's more important than anything else. If it is only for money, one may think he or she may make, it may be set up for failure. But for those who really love what they want to do, are going to be successful," he said.

There are basically several categories six to be exact, according to Collier, that one must work at to begin what he calls the foundation of a new business.

"These are important six steps and can't be 'wobbly', but very critical fundamental stages for forming a foundation for a new business," Collier said.

Right off, Number One is to learn what Collier calls the legal structure that is required to start a new business. That includes how to incorporate, do a partnership, etc. Next comes learning how to identifying your fictional name for your new business, which basically means that you are using a name in the state for an already established business.

Thirdly, Collier says is learning how to gain your state licensing, the procedures one must go through and how to make it happen.

Fourth focuses on how to obtain a federal employer identification number, which is mainly for the IRS.

And fifth and sixth are how to take care of your federal, state and local taxes mainly by working through the tax collector of the county by registering your business, and how to obtain local licensing showing where you can operate your business in the county.

"It's really a path that will legitimate your business," Collier said.

Elvis Collier brings many years of business experience to his new job. He has spent more than 20 years in managing large numbers of employees, training and operations, human resources, P&K planning and has directed execution of company programs.

Collier has taught management at Griffin Technical College in Griffin Ga., and he has a bachelor of arts degree from Morehouse College, and a master of science degree from Suffolk University. He is a Ph.D. candidate at Barry University.

Collier says he will guide a potentially new business person through the preparation of a business plan, but more importantly than that, he says is a feasibility study to show the need in the community for such a business. No matter what the business is, if there is no market for it in the community, the business will very likely not be successful.

More intricate details are shared with the new entrepreneur showing that there are important expenses that must be realized, too.

Collier says without the proper financial numbers and costs behind the person, the new business man or woman may very well not make it. Those numbers include the cost of new expenses typically what it cost to run the business. Without those costs included, one cannot come up with a price for the service or product.

"Many people don't think of things like fuel that it takes to go to a place, the wear and tear on one's vehicle or vehicles and other items that if not figured into the feasibility study, the new business may not make it.

The absence of that core statement is why businesses come and go, Collier says.

"It's very important to be able to work in what it cost to conduct that business."

Included in the advice from Collier and other certified business consultants in the county who work out of FGCU, are what Collier calls "cross referrals," including others with other business expertise that would also work with the new business entrepreneurial person.

"These are very well qualified business professionals within the network at FGCU. For instance, one of the 20 business consultants may specialize in taxes there are experts in every field of business.

Collier is an expert in human relations. He knows the ins and outs of such workings as knowledge of the Affordable Care Act and how it affects your business in addition to several other topics, including hiring responsibilities.

One who wants to a business can get assistance from marketing experts and others such how to obtain a business loan.

But Collier continued to stress how important it is for one to be passionate about the business being planned.

"Love what you are doing," he said. "Don't just look at it for the money. It's as if you are married to the business you are planning. With that you are very likely be make it."

Collier says he has joined the Florida SBDC staff because he enjoys helping others to obtain their goals.

"I enjoy helping people when I was in business helping to restore properties, I would look back and say to myself 'it was a job well done' so if I can help others enjoy their jobs, that is what it all about."

Collier and Suzanne Specht, the assistant director of Florida SBDC at the university, gave a brief presentation last week at the regular meeting of the Community Council of Lehigh Acres.

The main offices are located in the Lutgert College of Business building at 10501 FGCU Blvd. in Fort Myers. You can also gain more information by going online to: or call the campus at 239-745-3700.

Tell them you are from Lehigh and want help in starting a business and they will start the process.

You can contact Collier at 369-3322 at the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce. You can call and make an appointment to see him. You may also walk in to the chamber offices on Thursdays. He works out of the chamber office Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

At the meeting Specht said there were more than 1,200 small businesses in Lehigh Acres. She noted that each business hired employees from the area.

Collier said that it is his goal to bring more people into the business community and with the help of the SBDC, make them strong and viable so more people can be hired. And that means jobs in Lehigh.

"You know, it is the small businesses in American that are the backbone on our economy that is why it is so important to help," he said.



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