Spotlight on the Mountain Lakes Business Development Corporation: Helping Entrepreneurs in the Upstate

Working with a team of volunteers and in partnership with the Tri-County Technical College and Clemson's Small Business Development Center, the non-profit Mountain Lakes Business Development Center (MLBDC) works to help budding entrepreneurs turn their dreams into reality. 

Utilizing mentors, offering education opportunities, and providing a cost-effective, shared-use business development facility, the MLBDC helps Upstate residents in Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties start new businesses and grow existing ones.

Created in 2011, over 250 individuals and/or business have taken advantage of the MLBDC's services. The key benefit that the organization provides, is to assist small businesses in developing an effective business plan and provide regular counseling to increase their probabilities for successful achievement of their goals.

Mentor Volunteers

MLBDC's volunteers share their time and expertise to help entrepreneurs dreaming about starting a small business and to help current small business owners supplement their skills with confidential, free business mentoring.

Among other things, the volunteers, all of whom are SCORE certified, help build business plans and teach how to manage finances, conduct market research and make informed decisions.  SCORE certified volunteers are experienced business executives willing to donate their time and talent to aid aspiring small business owners. The individual talents of the SCORE volunteer can be matched to the client's needs. Because SCORE is affiliated with the Small Business Administration, there are additional benefits such as training programs available to any client desiring to participate.

Dave Eldridge is one such volunteer and serves as the MLBDC's CEO and an active SCORE mentor to local clients. His mentoring is based on extensive business experience in the fields of Manufacturing, Marketing, International Business, Engineering and Nonprofits. In addition, he has owned his own successful small business and understands the many challenges they face. Eldridge has also served many Governors' of South Carolina and North Carolina as the States Director of Economic Development. "Oconee is lucky to have the leadership of Dave Eldridge in the community and running the MLBDC as lots of companies can learn from his experiences," says Richard K. Blackwell, SCCED Executive Director, Oconee County Economic Development Commission.

Education

The MLBDC schedules and conducts training programs on a monthly basis at the Tri-County Technical College, Pendleton Campus. Entrepreneurial spirited individuals can benefit from one of three workshops: Small Business Start-Up, Small Business Tax Workshop and Business Immersion for Entrepreneurs: Start, Run, Grow.

The small business start-up workshop addresses the first steps involved in starting a small business. Topics include managing cash flow, setting up business and marketing plans, insurance issues, legal and licensing insights, and more.

The tax workshop, designed for the small business owner, small business manager or the self-employed, explores business use of home, independent contractors vs. employees, employment taxes, tax forms, and electronic filing methods.

The business immersion program takes students through the process of conceiving, creating, managing, and growing their own business. The course covers the key elements to starting and running a successful business. The goal is to provide a solid background with practical application of important concepts for anybody starting or running a business, regardless of educational background.

Oconee County Incubator

Aiding in the creation of jobs and new businesses, MLBDC also operates the Oconee Business Center (OBC). The OBC has a goal of stimulating entrepreneurship, innovation and job creation by offering low-cost, shared facilities for new business development.

The OBC facility, located at 104 Brown's Square Drive in Walhalla, provides 10,000 sq. ft. of office space and 5,000 sq. ft. of open bays with overhead door access for prototype development and support activities.

Providing services on a shared-use basis, the goal is to allow businesses to progress towards self-sufficiency. The progress of each member business is monitored, with "graduation" from the incubator generally expected to be within 3 years.

"The MLBDC has been a great addition to our economic development toolbox as it works to aid small business growth in our community and grow a new crop of entrepreneurs that will call Oconee home," says Blackwell.

Sherry Jackson is a freelance writer, editor and entrepreneur. Her articles have been featured in InfoWorld Magazine,Entrepreneur.com, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, Jetsetter, Bootsnall, Gadling, Yahoo, See the South, Beckett Media, The Simpsonville Sentinel and many other print and online publications. For clips and examples of her work, please visit her website at www.dragonflyventures.com.