Starting your own Business
Career Transition Primer
STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS
You can read anything you want about starting your own business. It ranges from the "thrill of victory" to the "agony of defeat". It's difficult to find yet-to-be successful entrepreneurs who will be candid with you, however. The business journals are filled with tales of the successful entrepreneurs while the less-than-successful folks ultimately work for someone else. In the oil business, there are many "consultants". Sometimes this is a euphemism for being unemployed in the oil industry. For those wanting to really "put out their shingle" or start a business in another industry, there are a surprising number of federally-funded resources available to the new business enterprise.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is probably the first government resource to consider. Call them at their office located at 9301 Southwest Freeway, Suite 550. Their phone number is 773-6500. Don't be afraid to ask for an introductory visit to their new, and well equipped, facility. They can be very helpful, especially if you have capitol and/or assets for a business. They can be a little bureaucratic and REMEMBER, they don't lend money, they just guarantee repayment of loans you get through a bank. They can also be helpful if you approach business brokers (listed in the Yellow Pages) and you want to buy an existing business.
The Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) is the place to start if you just need to talk to someone about starting a business. SCORE is a volunteer organization related to the SBA. They are available at 773-6565 and also located at 9301 Southwest Freeway, Suite 550. They have periodic day-long workshops (at the University of Houston Hilton) on starting a small business, as well as other workshops pertaining to bookkeeping, marketing, and developing business plans. The fees for attending these workshops are ridiculously low and the workshop contents are priceless. They also provide you the opportunity to determine if you've got what it takes to successfully start a business. Their schedule is generally published in the Monday edition of the business section of the Houston Chronicle. Individual counseling sessions for start-up or on-going businesses are also available with these seasoned experts.
Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) have been springing up around Houston. Their purpose is to provide low-cost help for new businesses trying to successfully navigate those first few years. These, generally academically-backed, organizations have their own business counselors, libraries, computers, word processing software, and printers for your use. These include:
- The University of Houston SBDC - 752-8400
- Houston Community College SBDC - 499-4870
- N. Harris Co.-Kingwood College SBDC - 359-1677
- Alvin Community College SBDC - 388-4686
The "business incubator" is an intensive version of the SBDC. Sometimes they operate with SBDCs. At these incubators, start-up operations are given guidance and the opportunity to develop into profitable business enterprises. Various small business organizations have them. One word of caution: The fatality rate of these business incubators themselves is fairly high.
One of the oldest such operations in the Houston area is the Entrepenurial Development Center - Service Cooperative Association. They are located at 8845 Long Point in the Spring Branch area and their phone number is 932-7495. When you call this number, you will get an interesting voice recorded message. You should ultimately punch in extension "13" and talk to Dean Crane, the administrator of the program. They are a for-profit privately funded, total immersion, and nurturing environment for selective entrepreneurs. They are also available to provide "advisory services" to those seeking to start or expand their business.
There are other business incubators in the Houston area. Unlike the Service Cooperative Association, these other incubators are non-profit. They are:
Houston SBD Corp.
5330 Griggs Houston
Contact Mr. Marlon Mitchell @ 845-2400
The Free Enterprise Center
13600 Murphy Road Stafford
Contact Mr. Ray Arnett @ 499-4870
Taxes: Given that the only two certainties are death and taxes, a word about taxes is justified. The Internal Revenue Service holds weekly tax workshops for small businesses so that we can stay out of trouble. These sessions are held at various locations, although you can always count on their main office (8701 S. Gessner) to have the most frequent schedule. Call them at 541-0440 for times and locations. This half-day presentation will also introduce you to the services available to employers from the Texas Employment Commission (they actually exist to help employers more so than the unemployed).
The City of Houston ONE STOP Business Center is a convenient, source for business start-up operations. They office at 901 Bagby St., City Hall, First Floor, with a phone number of 663-7867. This is an office designed to simplify the application for the necessary permits to start a business. They will even help you if your business will be located in Harris County rather than the city of Houston.
The US General Store is a new concept (Fall of 2000) at the state/national level. They serve as a one stop regulatory store front located at 5400 Griggs. At different times there are different regulatory agency representatives working there so call them at 643-8000 to see when they can help you. They also help with business plans and have computers available for fledgling businesses.
No business is complete without a name. The Harris County Clerk's Office will be glad to give you an official business name (called a DBA or "Doing Business As") certificate for $11.00. You decide on your name and register it, assuming no one else has that name registered in Harris County. You can do this by dropping by your Harris County Clerk's Office. There are branches all over Harris County. Look in the Blue Pages (in the front of your Business White Pages) for the branch closest to you.