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Seminar to help little ventures grow

Small-business owners, listen up. Next week could bring some helpful tips on how to expand and get more exposure.

The Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce will offer its third annual business development seminars Tuesday and Wednesday.

This year's theme is "Building a Small Business." It will feature six free seminars on topics ranging from drafting a business plan to starting a business. There will be several guest speakers, including novelist and ad agency executive Jerry Greenfield.

The primary corporate sponsor for the event is Barnett Bank of the Suncoast, which is hosting the seminars at its Weeki Wachee building at U.S. 19 and State Road 50.

Nancy Levija, Barnett's marketing officer who helped organize the seminars, said the annual event is important to Hernando's business community, which consists mostly of small businesses.

Under federal guidelines, a small business is one with less than $5-million a year in sales.

"When you look at Hernando County, 99 percent of the businesses have sales under $500,000 a year," Levija said. "So we have an abundance of small business people in our community."

Barnett, the chamber and the U.S. Small Business Administration began the annual seminars in Hernando three years ago so businesses here wouldn't have to pay $40 to $100 to attend similar conferences in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties, Levija said.

"There was a big need in the community for these types of programs," Levija said.

The seminar topics were based on requests from last year's participants.

Tuesday's seminars cover topics such as drafting a business plan, licensing procedures, pitfalls to avoid when getting started, accounting, financing and polishing managerial skills.

Wednesday's seminars will address various facets of marketing. Representatives of local newspaper, radio and cable companies will talk about the advantages of advertising.

Lanny Husebo, president of Husebo Advertising and Public Relations, will discuss the basics of conducting effective ad campaigns.

Greenfield, who pioneered the highly successful campaign that helped build Ace Auto Parts into a major competitor in its field during the 1980s, will discuss the differences between marketing, advertising and promotion.

The two-day event begins with a business breakfast at 8 a.m. Tuesday in the community room at Barnett's Weeki Wachee office.

The featured speaker will be Mary Helen Blakesly, director of business development for the Florida Department of Commerce.

The seminars are open to anyone who wishes to attend. However, because of limited seating, reservations are requested. Reservations can be made by calling the chamber at 683-3700 or by returning registration forms, available at most banks in Hernando or from any chamber office.

So far, about 50 people have signed up for the seminars, Levija said.