University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

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News Bureau . Schofield Hall 201 . Eau Claire, WI 54702
phone: (715) 836-4741
fax: (715) 836-2900

Small Business Development Director
Named Tops in the State

 MAILED:  July 14, 2003

EAU CLAIRE - Marie-Arzel Young had some rough ideas for a European-style bakery with made-from-scratch baked goods when she decided to start a new business in Eau Claire. What she didn't have was a business plan, a tax consultant, an understanding of costs and profit margin or a training plan for her future employees.

"I know how to do pastries, but the other things I need help with," Young says.

Thanks to a referral to the Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Young's ideas took shape into a solid business that has people's mouths watering all over town. The 28-year-old baker worked with Kevin Jones, director of the SBDC, which provides information, training and counseling to Wisconsin entrepreneurs and small business owners and managers.

"Kevin helped me transform my rough ideas into a coherent plan. He arranged for an accountant and a tax consultant from the university faculty, who were fantastic," said Young, owner of the French Confection bakery, soon-to-open on Water Street and a popular venue this summer at the Farmers Market. "I headed off so many problems because of his advice and the people he put me in touch with. He's the guy I always call when I have a question or problem."

Jones recently was selected by his peers as the 2003 outstanding Wisconsin SBDC staff member. He will receive the State Star Award along with award winners from other states during the ASBDC Annual Conference in San Diego, Sept. 30-Oct. 4.

The annual award is given to an SBDC employee who makes a significant contribution to the Wisconsin SBDC, shows a commitment to small business and is an exemplary performer, said Erica Kauten, director of the Business and Manufacturing Division of UW-Extension.

"Kevin filled the bill for all our criteria," Kauten says. "I appreciate the fact that Kevin keeps the clients as his focus and that he finds ways to accomplish what needs to be done in order to meet customer needs. He is also innovative in his programming and gets high ratings."

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Donald Mash said Jones' work with small business owners has been outstanding and a prime example of how UW-Eau Claire serves the region through business development.

"When we talk about being an interactive public regional university, one of the primary things we're referring to is our commitment to serving the region," Mash said. "We diligently work to identify and meet community needs, making regional service a priority along with developing our students into professionals and engaged citizens."

UW-Eau Claire's SBDC helps entrepreneurs and small business owners and managers in Barron, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin, Rusk and Taylor counties. The staff works closely with other economic development providers in the region.

"Our mission is to marshal the resources of the University of Wisconsin to benefit the small business community," Jones said. "We offer services in cooperation with UW-Stout, UW-Barron County and county UW-Extension offices."

Funded by the federal government through the Small Business Administration, the SBDC offers counseling to small business owners or people who want to start a business and provides seminars and workshops on a variety of business-related topics. Jones fields 350-400 contacts annually and counsels about 110 clients a year, often putting them in touch with experts from the UW-Eau Claire College of Business or elsewhere. There is no charge to the client.

His colleague, Marilyn Kanne, runs the Supervisory Management Certificate Program, which caters mostly to larger businesses in the region. Jones coordinates the non-credit seminars and workshops for small businesses, including a 13-session entrepreneur training series.

"You don't know what you don't know when you first start a business," says Mary Jurmain, a successful entrepreneur whose company, Realityworks (formerly Baby Think-It-Over), is now 10 years old. "Services like the SBDC can help avoid many of the mistakes."

Jurmain, whose company provides life skills products to education, takes advantage of the SBDC's ongoing educational opportunities and this year provided direction for a series of seminars on intellectual property issues for small business.

"Our economy is dependent on small businesses, not just the big corporate giants," Jurmain said. "When the state is looking at ways to develop small businesses, they need to look at the role organizations such as the SBDC play in the process. They are a big help in avoiding the pitfalls that cause so many small businesses to fail."

Since Uniroyal closed, the region has become less dependent on large businesses, Jones said. "The number of smaller manufacturing and non-manufacturing firms has increased. The result is a more diverse business culture, which is healthy for the region's economic future," he said, noting 120 businesses and non-profit agencies now occupy the Banbury Place complex on the site of the former tire company.

Jones taught in UW-Eau Claire's College of Business for five years before becoming SBDC director in 1992. He has an MBA from UW-Eau Claire and a bachelor's degree from UW-Green Bay.

Jones said he was shocked when he learned he was the 2003 State Star recipient. "I'm honored to be recognized by my peers. There are many SBDC people across the state who are doing great work. It's very humbling to be selected for this award."
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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741
newsbur@uwec.edu

Updated: July 14, 2003