August 05, 2009

ISBDC celebrating 25th year at SIUC

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- It has been a quarter of a century since Southern Illinois University Carbondale conceived a place where people could find the resources they need to help them start a successful business. During this 25th anniversary year, the Illinois Small Business Development Center is celebrating hundreds of success stories.

“Our focus is on business success,” said Lynn Andersen Lindberg, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center (ISBDC) at SIUC.

An average of 350 clients get assistance at the ISBDC each year, Lindberg said. Currently, the staff is working with about 30 clients on a weekly basis. Some clients are interested in starting sole proprietorship or home-based businesses while others want to start companies with global markets. The ISBDC staff is ready to help anyone in the region who is interested in starting a business or anyone who currently owns a business.

Free counseling services and resources are available to the center’s clients. The ISBDC offers business plan development, cash flow and financial analysis, instruction in accounting and recordkeeping, legal structure, organizational and personnel issues, financial plan development, loan structuring and packaging, general business issues, marketing and sales strategies. They assist with information about financing opportunities, government procurement, international trade and E-commerce in conjunction with other Illinois Entrepreneurship Network partners. The center also offers numerous workshops to assist those interested in starting or expanding a business.

The ISBDC actually launched as a unit of the University’s College of Business and the first grant funding arrived in late 1984. Don Vaughn and Hal Wilson, then faculty members, were the lead founders and initial co-directors. The ISBDC became part of the SIUC Office of Economic and Regional Development in 1990. It is located within the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.

Lindberg said the most common client is someone who is thinking about starting a small business and doesn’t know how to begin. The center helps them evaluate their concept and determine if they’re likely to make a go of it. She’s quick to point out that not every idea becomes a business, and yet the clients who opt not to go ahead with their ideas are also success stories because they realize their plan isn’t feasible before they invest too much time or money in it.

“We don’t want anyone to give up their current job or lose their house because a business fails. We help them determine if their business plan is feasible,” Lindberg said.

Clients who do proceed get in-depth help in setting up, managing and marketing their business along with help in seeking financing through government resources or private lenders. The ISBDC frequently works collaboratively with its Illinois Entrepreneurship Network partners including the Southern Illinois Entrepreneurship Center, the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center, and the Southern Illinois Research Park as well as with the Procurement Technical Assistance Center at John A. Logan College and the International Trade Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

The center also works closely with the SIUC Center for Innovation within the College of Business, particularly with business development and technology innovation. One arena in which the collaboration has proven very effective in recent years is the technology field. Lindberg noted, for example, that there have been instances where SIUC faculty created a marketable technology product, set up a business within the business incubator and later expanded and continued operating a successful business at another location.

Irene Carlton, Dennis Cody, Robyn Laur Russell and now Lindberg have directed the ISBDC during its tenure. Greg Bouhl, Aimee Wigfall, Jenni Janssen and Lindberg along with graduate and undergraduate assistants comprise the current staff. Funding for the ISBDC comes from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, with SIUC contributing by hosting and providing salary support.

Lindberg also noted that despite the current economic downturn, people are still starting thriving businesses.

“Now is actually a decent time to start a business,” she said. “It is definitely trickier but there are some banks loaning to credit-worthy individuals with credible ideas. There are especially great opportunities for people who have a good business plan and capital to invest.”

In celebration of a quarter of a century serving Southern Illinois, planning is under way for a Sept. 29 reception at the Small Business Incubator at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center. Lindberg said they will soon finalize and announce details about the event for past and present clients, bankers, SIUC faculty and staff, stakeholders and all those who have worked with the SBDC through the years.

For more information about the ISBDC or the services it renders, call 618/536-2424 or look online at