Carol Hendrix can relate to those who are battling personal and economic storms.
She's been a teenage mom, a welfare recipient, laid off, divorced, lost a daughter and most recently took on the task of raising two grandchildren.
But she's also a successful entrepreneur who holds a master's degree in business administration, a former bank executive, consultant and adjunct professor. In June, she moved from Philadelphia to Florida to help Pasco residents figure out how to start a business or keep their ventures afloat during the sour economy.
Hendrix, 57, is the new consultant for the Pasco satellite office of the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a nonprofit agency funded by the federal Small Business Administration to provide free help for startups or existing small businesses. Hendrix recently sat down with the Pasco Times to talk about her role in aiding those who want to be their own bosses. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did you get into business?
I got laid off. I wish it was because I came up with a great idea for that "thing" people like. But I had operated a side business, so that made it easier to get started.
What is the main reason most people start businesses?
Unplanned job exits are the No. 1 reason. But there's also underemployment. People need an additional source of income, but they need flexibility. Then there are the ones who are retired who say, "I don't need any profits." (Smiles) I wish I were one of those.
What is the biggest stumbling block to starting or running a successful business?
Credit. Banks usually don't like to do startups. Sometimes people have the money, but they may have problems identifying their target market. If you don't do that, you end up wasting a lot of money.
Is that where your agency comes in?
We help them identify their target market, develop a business plan and get financing. The library has databases that have demographic information that's even more detailed than the Census. I'm also a big promoter of the new micro-loan program the county recently established. Loans are also available through the Small Business Administration.
What's the best way to determine what kind of business to start?
Find out what you're good at and what you like to do. Some passion has to be there. You have to be able to get up in the morning and do it. Starting a business is a very hard thing to do. There are no sick days. I also tell people to absolutely consider a franchise.
How successful has your agency been?
Since 2010 we've created or retained 1,700 jobs, generated $31.7 million in sales growth, $5.6 million in loans, and $30.8 million in government contracts and started 154 businesses. That's for the 10-county region we serve that includes Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Manatee, Hardee, Sarasota, Desoto, and Highlands.
How does someone get more information or contact you for help?
Visit sbdctampabay.com or call toll-free 1-888-929-2221. We also are part of the Pasco Enterprise Network at pascoenterprise.net.