Are you a start-up business? Your state can help

By Mark G. Auerbach

Last fall, while wearing my arts reporter hat, I got a note from Matthew J. Pugliese, executive producer and managing director of the Connecticut Repertory Theatre and the Nutmeg Summer Series at The University of Connecticut. The seasoned arts administrator, who brought talents like Terrence Mann, Leslie Uggams, Barrett Foa, and Jackie Burns to the stages of Storrs and mentored arts administration students at UCONN as a Financial Management teacher, was taking a new role as associate state director at The Connecticut Small Business Development Center (CTSBDC), located in East Hartford. Pugliese knew about economic development from his offstage work.

Pugliese, who in 2012, was named to the Hartford Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” list for his professional work and civic involvement, is a selectmen in the town of Old Saybrook, CT, and chair of Old Saybrook’s Economic Development Commission. He’s worked on a strategic plan for economic development for the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development. He’s volunteered as a youth mentor for the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

The Connecticut Small Business Development Center’s mission is similar to that of all the other Small Business Development Centers in states across the nation; it is to help the state’s businesses start and grow in order to create jobs, increase business startups and increase financial investment in the small business and entrepreneurial community. The CTSBDC works with small business owners and entrepreneurs committed to building a successful business, by offering professional, confidential and expert business advice for owners to overcome challenges and reach their goals. Business advisors provide geographic-based demographics, consumer spending data, market research, financial projections industry reports and much more.

Wide variety of services available

CTSBDC services include access to capital, business plan organization, financial analysis, disaster or disruption planning, cash flow management, export consulting, succession planning, and more.  This is a free service to businesses; they simply need to register for service, as the program is funded through the US Small Business Administration, Connecticut Economic and Community Development and UCONN School of Business.

Matt Pugliese

According to Pugliese, last year, the CTSBDC served 1,999 different businesses, supporting 9,037 jobs and helping 140 businesses start up. “Our goals each year are set by the US Small Business Administration,” he said. “Our clients’ businesses must either be Connecticut-based, or planning to move here, although the owner could live in another state.”

“Clients are screened in that they need to sign-up for advisory services so that we can provide them with confidentiality,” Pugliese added.  “They are also asked for their business plan and depending on how long they have been in existence, other relevant information that they can share. We work with ‘small businesses’ as defined by the US Small Business Administration – so this ranges from a one employee startup to businesses that have been in operation for decades with a fairly large staff and annual revenue in the millions.”

The most significant need that CTSBC clients share is access to capital—for facilities, for improvements and equipment, and/or for bringing on new employees. According to Pugliese, “CTSBC advisors have strong relationships with funders – regional and national banks, community banks, non-profit funders and private investors – venture and angel capital. They are great at connecting businesses to the right loan program at the right institution to get them the funding they need to accomplish their goals.”

According to Pugliese, “At CTSBDC, we have 13 advisors who work regionally throughout Connecticut. We serve all 169 towns, with advisors having multiple office spaces located in Chambers of Commerce, town halls and co-working spaces. The consulting is provided individually and confidentially. Initial meetings are normally in person, but based on the needs and schedule of the business client – this can be done via video conference or phone. CTSBDC understands small business owners are juggling a lot – and work to meet them on their schedule.”

No time limit

There is no set time limit for a start-up to use the services of .CTSBDC. “Some businesses only need a few hours of counseling, others might need more than 20 and come back over multiple years,” said Pugliese. “The lack of a time limit in hours or sessions is a differentiating factor that makes the SBDC program different from some other support programs for small businesses. But, the key to survival: It might seem basic, but the most important thing a small business needs to do to survive is to have a good plan in place. Our advisors encounter this over and over. Putting a solid plan into place helps a business owner figure out how to best maximize the resources they have and identify the resources they need to survive and thrive.”

For details on the CTSBDC:

To locate a SBDC office in your state:


Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and on radio/TV on 89.5fm/WSKB, and WCPC15.

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