By Janet Stoica
Starting your own small business can be exhilarating but it can also be lonely and frustrating.
That’s where Krosslinks comes in.
If you’re thinking about starting a new business or need advice to guide you through the new business permit process then it’s time for you to meet with other entrepreneurs and business advisors at Krosslinks. Meetings are held the first Thursday of every month at the Jacob Edwards Library on Main Street in Southbridge.
In December the Southbridge library became the sixth library in Central Massachusetts to host a Krosslinks program, which was initiated by an entrepreneur at the Shrewsbury library in 2014.
The meeting room is on the lower level and there is no fee to come and see for yourself what the organization is all about. The night this reporter attended there was a diverse group of business people from young, aspiring entrepreneurs to established Latino businesses to community development companies. Alexandra McNitt, Executive Director of the Central Mass South Chamber of Commerce began the meeting by having everyone introduce themselves and their ventures.
“We are here to network, discuss, and help each other by asking questions and getting answers,” said Ms. McNitt. “We want to offer resources that people are looking for in the South County and northeastern Connecticut areas. We will have presenters at future meetings who can help new business people find resources to jumpstart their new ventures.”
Rosemary Scrivens, Southbridge’s economic development director, echoed Ms. McNitt’s comments by saying, “This group was formed because a successful information technology entrepreneur [in Westborough] wanted to give back to his community. Our meetings are held in the Jacob Edwards Library because libraries are non-intimidating and we all use libraries for reference. We are all about community and very positive about our goals to assist those people just starting out on a new business venture.”
Along with first-time business entrepreneurs, representatives from area companies and support organizations attended the meeting, including the Southbridge Hotel and Conference Center, Quaboag Valley Community Development & Business Assistance Corp., Enviro Works, RRI Consulting, Center of Hope, SCORE (a division of the Small Business Administration), Workforce Central, and Gateway Players.
Each representative gave a brief overview of their organization and expressed their willingness to assist anyone who chooses to attend their meetings to get to their next level of business development. Southbridge Hotel’s representative looked forward to hosting a future event for those area businesses to meet and greet each other in a casual setting while RRI Consulting expressed the need to assist more Latino businesses through the business permitting process. The SCORE representative indicated that his organization offers their services in a confidential manner to serve their clients. “We have experts in many industries,” he said. The Center of Hope’s representative explained their many businesses and the 64 local communities their physically and mentally-challenged clients hail from and offer services to. They offer customers services in the area of light industrial packaging, printing, car-detailing, direct-mail marketing, and janitorial services.
“We want to get the word out to individuals and companies in the southern Worcester County and northeastern Connecticut area that we are here to help the small business person,” reiterated Alexandra McNitt. “If people want to learn more about starting their own business in the community, we are here!”
One young woman told about wanting to start her own business in the area and how she had spoken with the local SCORE representative about writing a business plan and how to choose the best location for her business. All attendees are there to help each other succeed. Ms. McNitt also elaborated on some of the necessary aspects of starting your own business such as establishing the type of business (sole proprietorship, partnership, etc.), financing, collateral, and incentive programs. “Community Block Development Grants are available too,” she said.
The Quaboag Valley Community Development Corporation was quick to point out that they offer not only computer and small business training but technical assistance and community service projects as well. They are a non-profit organization that has been operating since 1995 and has made small business loans from $500 to over $100,000 for small, medium, and start-up businesses. Their contact phone number is (413) 967-3001 and you would most likely benefit from seeing their rep in person at the next meeting on March 3.
“There’s a lot of sweat equity in the beginning to start your own business,” said Ms. Scrivens. “Sitting in this casual environment with us is good to absorb energy and ideas. There are lots of questions and plenty of answers from some of our seasoned businesses.” She then spoke with a representative from RRI Consulting of Southbridge, which is a Latino business, and it was agreed that a future group meeting would be held with all Krosslinks attendees to assist not only Latino businesses but to promote a strong and beneficial partnership between all new business ventures by assisting everyone with business permits as well as safety rules and regulations to get their ventures started. “A business is a business is a business,” said Ms. Scrivens, “we are here to help everyone succeed.”
Krosslinks meetings are held the first Thursday of the month from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Jacob Edwards Library at 236 Main Street in Southbridge, in the Pioppi Room on the lower level. There’s no need to register, just come.
Reach Alexandra McNitt at the Central Mass South Chamber of Commerce, 380 Main Street, Sturbridge, at 508- 347-2761.