Service Provider Program lets entrepreneurs stretch their dollars

Program can help fledgling business with costs cruicial to their success by quadrupling professional service funds.

Clients standing around computer terminalIn order to make the best use of limited funds, entrepreneurs often need to find better and more efficient ways to receive expert assistance. Despite needing support in areas crucial to their success, entrepreneurs often don’t have the capital needed to hire outside professionals that would be a key asset.

Like many organizations striving to assist entrepreneurs, the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, a partner of Michigan State University Extension, has been working on programming designed to do just that. Through a Service Provider Program, entrepreneurs are able to leverage their dollars to receive the professional assistance that they would not normally be able to afford. The NLEA will work with these entrepreneurs and a select group of local experts in the field of marketing, website development and analysis, accounting, legal entity issues, and other professional services. These experts will provide their services at a discounted rate. The fees will then be split 50/50 between the entrepreneur and the NLEA. The funds that are being contributed by the NLEA are available because of a generous support grant from the Charlevoix County and Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. Essentially, through this program, the entrepreneur’s dollars will have quadrupled.

A good example is an entrepreneur who needs to build a website for a new business. This is a costly project and in this digital age, a very important tool for a business, especially one that does not have a bricks and mortar location. In this example, the original cost of the website development would be $2000. The website developer would then agree to provide their services for $1000. The remaining $1000 would then be divided between the NLEA and the entrepreneur, with each providing $500. In the end, for a $500 investment, the entrepreneur would walk away with a $2000 website. And the website developer is walking away with $1000 instead of providing their services for free. This leads to a good working relationship for future partnerships between the entrepreneur and the professional.

Many of the services provided through the program are one-time setup processes that are critical to a small business. It may be accounting-based, such as setting up an organization’s Quickbooks, or setting up a point-of-sale system. Or, it may be legal advice on how to structure a business or designing contracts to protect service providers.

Existing businesses are able to take advantage of this program as well. Marketing services provided through this program can be especially useful in rebranding a business or providing a more modern look to a business that is struggling to reach the next step in promotion. A new logo and marketing plan for an existing business is helpful, but the funds are often hard to find in an already stretched budget.

Tom Erhart, entrepreneurship director at the NLEA is especially happy to be providing this opportunity to local entrepreneurs. “Through this program, we get to help businesses receive the professional services that they may cut corners on otherwise. And entrepreneurs get the confidence from a well-executed service that they really need,” stated Erhart. “We have had great success in the past with this program and we are excited to have the chance to be offering it again.”

To learn more about the 2013 Service Provider Program provided through the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, download this fact sheet or visit the NLEA website.

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