Messenger - Vol. 2, No. 2, Page 10
Winter 1993
On Campus
The dream weavers

     Kathleen Corcoran's successful path to entrepreneurship started with
an exercise physiology course at the University of Delaware.
     One thing led to another. She took a full-time position as assistant
fitness director and aerobics instructor at a health club. When the health
club folded in 1989, Kathleen launched her own business-The Fitness
Consulting Co.
     Today, the company runs corporate fitness programs for many large
firms in Delaware and boasts clients around the country. Corcoran's
business provides educational workshops and training for fitness
professionals and employs more than 20 part-time aerobics instructors.
     Now, this 1987 University of Delaware grad is planning to enter the
Philadelphia corporate fitness market and hopes someday to do consulting
and training internationally.
     Corcoran credits the University with more than just offering the
courses that launched her career. She turned to the Small Business
Development Center (SBDC) on campus for support and practical advice when
she was starting her company.
     Corcoran says it wasn't just the technical advice she received at the
center from counselor Clinton Tymes that made the difference. It was also
the creative problem-solving in a "low-pressure" atmosphere that helps you
"open your mind up to some other ideas."
     Corcoran says she believes that no one should consider starting a
business without first visiting the SBDC, and she is one of hundreds of
small business owners who believe the center has played a critical role in
their successes.
     G. Flores Jr., owner of Stripes Unlimited, recently wrote a letter of
thanks for the role the SBDC played in his company's growth. Stripes
Unlimited is a Dover, Del., company that maintains parking lots and
driveways. What the owner found impressive was that Barbara Necarsulmer,
one of the counselors, contacted the company with an offer to help.
     Each year, the Small Business Development Center counsels about 400
businesses. Another 2,000 people already in business or considering
startups participate in center training programs.
     The typical business owner who seeks help already knows how to do what
they do well, but is stymied by business aspects, says Linda Fayerweather,
center director since 1989. Their problems range from accounting, to
marketing, to employees. Sometimes, the business owner has a problem
"making sense out of the paperwork nightmare," she says.
     The SBDC staff also gets involved in reading and evaluating business
plans. It may be a matter of pointing out areas that don't read well,
Fayerweather says, or calling the owner's attention to inconsistencies.
Maybe the numbers don't add up or the facts conflict.
     "We also do sales projections and cash-flow planning-two areas that
are critical to a business's success," she says. "A company can be
profitable and fail. Businesses survive on cash."
     The SBDC staff, which also includes business analyst Tim Bristow,
doesn't try to do everything. Often, the counselors tell a company when
it's time to seek professional help from an accountant or lawyer, and they
provide the business with referrals.
     The agency also acts as a facilitator for events that benefit large
groups. For example, in November, the SBDC sponsored for the second time
the Entrepreneurial Women's Expo, a highly successful event that drew about
400 women business owners. The expo featured workshops on hot business
topics and talks by motivational speakers. Women entrepreneurs exhibited
products and services and mainstream companies presented information and
products designed to help the women run their businesses.
     Recently, the SBDC acted as sponsoring agent for a new group,
"Inventors Mean Business." About 100 inventors get together through this
group to find ways to get their products manufactured and to network with
each other.
     On the campus, students at the University help small businesses solve
problems through the Small Business Institute. The SBDC acts as matchmaker
for this program, pairing accounting, finance and marketing students with
small businesses that can use their help.
     Businesses must request participation in this program. Actual company
names are not used when the case studies are presented. Students review
descriptions of the various problems that need to be solved and select the
one they wish to work on.
     Bit O'Scotland Bakery in Newark has nothing but praise for the center,
after working with Bristow and two University students on a case study
designed to help the business develop advertising strategies to target new
     Bankers also appreciate the center. Recently, Robert A. Silber, vice
president and Business Banking Division manager at Delaware Trust, wrote
the center to praise the staff's work.
     "Prior to the inception of your group, we in the banking profession
were limited in the resources available for clients and prospects in need
of counseling and training. Today, your group's demonstrated capabilities
provide that needed service. Continue the great work!"
     In addition to its counseling and workshop activities, the center
supports research that will benefit its small business clientele. In 1990,
the SBDC financed a study, "Opportunities for Small Business in Delaware,"
that showed, by zip code, which areas in the state have grown.
     Currently, the center is conducting for a study examining Wilmington's
business market that, when completed, should outline problems and high
points for companies operating in the city. The study will assess where
city businesses find employees and will look at where residents spend their
     In addition, the Small Business Development Center publishes several
newsletters and mails out thousands of flyers filled with information
useful to fledgling companies. Fayerweather, who previously ran a day-care
center, has a wide variety of information to help anyone starting a
child-care center. There also are a number of books for college students
looking for businesses they can run while they're in school.
     Companies will find just about any general business information they
might need, ranging from a planning guide for a retail shop or construction
firm to pamphlets that tell you how to apply for a patent or copyright.
     In a survey by the University's Bureau of Economic Research, covering
center activities from June 1991 to May 1992, almost 50 percent of the 105
respondents rated the overall performance of the SBDC as "excellent" and 31
percent described the center's performance as "above average." Almost 75
percent of the clients said they might need SBDC's assistance in the future
and 97 percent said they would recommend SBDC services to other current and
potential business owners.
     Finally, the bureau's survey revealed that more than 95 percent of the
clients received a fast response, in a week or less, and almost
three-fourths were contacted within a few days.
     Perhaps the most telling response came from Susan Fetzoff of Elkton,
Md., an illustrator who operates the "Inkredibles" cart at Christiana Mall
near the Newark campus. Her "thank you" to Linda Fayerweather was a
postcard illustrating a woman bobbing along with a school of fish and the
caption, "Many thanks for helping me surface-or at least begin to!"
                                        -Marsha Ming