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Agency offers free advice to small businesses in Ceres
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You've always wanted to start a business but you need some advice?

Or you have a business but need to expand sales or fix problems that hinder your operation?

That's where the Small Business Development Center is willing to help - free of charge.

The center, or SBDC, is a part of the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance and funded primarily by the federal government through the Small Business Administration. The Modesto center is one of five centers within a 14-county region.

Kirk Clark of the Alliance dropped by last week's meeting of the Ceres Community to plug the services.

"It's an important resource," said Clark. "It's one of the few resources out there, professional services, directly serving the small business community. I want to get the word out. I don't want to be the best kept secret anymore. We want as many small businesses in the community of Ceres taking advantage of our program as we possibly can."

The agency offers classes and private counseling, which is totally free.

"It is primarily a pretty robust business training program," said Clark. "We do about 150 to 200 individual training classes a year throughout the four counties and we also provide one on one private confidential consulting to anyone who wants to start a business or anyone who has a small business that fits the SBA designation (up to 500 employees and $25 million in annual revenue)."

A total of 30 business consultants are on the team based in the offices at 1020 Tenth Street in downtown Modesto.

"We provide quite a bit of services to Ceres residents," said Clark.

He noted the Alliance has held events in the Ceres Community Center.

Clark said the center appears to be set with a healthy budget for 2016 after securing a new grant from the state of California. That means growing the consulting staff.
One event coming up is the annual Stanislaus Innovative Challenge.

"We like to call it ‘Shark Tank' meets ‘American Idol.' It's a fun event where we challenge people that are innovators, people who have ideas for new products or services or just interesting business ideas, to apply through the website."

Ceres will be hosting a challenge event at the Ceres Community Center on Thursday, Oct. 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Audience participation is encouraged since they get to vote.

The winners of the six local events will compete in December for first place prize of $5,000 cash or $3,000 in professional services.