Nora Roughen-Schmidt, from the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center, talks about the host of services SBDC provides. If you're looking to start your own business or have one already, but feel disconnected from resources, this is the episode for you. Learn all about the opportunities of owning a small business in the Driftless Region of Southwest Wisconsin!
[Koziol]: Hi. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Nora Roughen-Schmidt, who is the business consultant for the Southwest Wisconsin region of the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center.
[Koziol]: Hi. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Nora Roughen-Schmidt, who is the business consultant for the Southwest Wisconsin region of the Small Business Development Center. Nora, welcome.
[Roughen-Schmidt]: Hi, Kate. It's so great to be here. Thanks for having me.
[Koziol]: Yeah, I'm so thrilled we have this chance to talk. I I want to cover a little bit of your back story and then all the terrific services that the small business development center offers, so. Start now. Where did you go to kindergarten? No, just kidding.
[Roughen-Schmidt]: Want to take all the way back there, Kate? Well, I appreciate the opportunity. Thank you again so much for having me. I have worked in community and economic development and small business and startup support for about 18 years now. I've always been really passionate about trying to figure out ways to eliminate barriers for people and to direct them to resources. So in the past I've worked in public libraries, in rural healthcare. I was the Executive Director at the Viroqua Chamber Main Street for several years and after that I worked at Starting Block in Madison as the Executive Director. Starting Block is a 50,000 square foot entrepreneurial space dedicated to all things entrepreneurship and education. And so when the opportunity with the UW System presented itself to be in a role where I could cover a six county region in southwest Wisconsin and spend all of my time meeting with people with brilliant ideas and trying to help to to curate services for them and help them to to meet their goals and eliminate any barriers that exist for them, it was kind of a no brainer for me. So I feel like all of the experience that I've gained over the past few years has really led me to this place and I absolutely love what I'm doing every day as an adventure.
[Koziol]: It is kind of magical. I I love our little corner of the world and you know helping people kind of get across that barrier or find a new resource or know kind of live their dreams. It sounds a little sappy, but I believe it.
[Roughen-Schmidt]: It is, but it's amazing when it all comes together and you see this too. And in your work, there's nothing better than the huge smile on the face of the person that's moving one step closer to their dream.
[Koziol]: Nora, I know you cover 6 counties. Can you give us the rundown of where your work is covering?
[Roughen-Schmidt]: Sure. My territory is Richland, Grant, Greene, Iowa, Lafayette, and Crawford County.
[Koziol]: Marvelous. Most of this beautiful Southwest Wisconsin Driftless.
[Roughen-Schmidt]: Yes, exactly.
[Koziol]: I know many people and I refer to you and to the SBDC team frequently because I've just really value your scope of services and I think maybe channel you into one or two services. So tell me a little bit about what is the scope of services that SBDC offers businesses?
[Roughen-Schmidt]: Yeah, that's a great question. You know the services offered at the SBDC are from the idea stage all the way through, you know, growth, mature business and even succession planning. So any stage of business anywhere where you are as far as your business or or your enterprise, we have services that can assist. So it really is a sophisticated scope of services.
[Koziol]: And how does someone who wants to get started with SBDC do that? Do they go to a certain website or how do they start to tap into the scope of services that are available?
[Roughen-Schmidt]: So there is Wisconsin SBDC website. It's very easy to get to Wisconsin SBDC.org. Once you get there, you'll be able to select your region or community and from there be able to look at some of the services, the education, and then also choose, you know, which region you're in and find a consultant. Some people that aren't ready to work with a consultant or think that maybe that's something that they're not ready for for whatever reason, they're lots of fantastic on-demand services. So if you have a quick question about forming a legal entity, a marketing question, how to read a balance sheet, whatever it might be, all of those services exist online, as well as links to different education that you can sign up for both virtually and in person. And then there's also an at-your-own pace course that can be taken online free of charge. That takes you through all of the different steps that you would go through if you were participating in a startup incubator and what's nice about that is that you get to at your own pace, one step at a time, Look at all of the different things that are needed to start a business, maintain a business, work on identifying your customer. It's really great and we've heard from a lot of people that those first steps are really, really beneficial to their process.
[Koziol]: Marvelous and running your own business is often a dream for many people. It's challenging. It's very rewarding. It's sort of maximum effort, maximum reward. Superfund, Why do you think people start businesses? What drives that?
[Roughen-Schmidt]: Wow, that's a really, really good question. I think everybody likes the idea of. Doing something that they're very passionate about on a daily basis. I think they also like the idea of being their own boss and moving ideas forward in a way that feels like it. It checks all of their boxes so that they can be there for their families and also do something that they find incredibly rewarding. So, people start businesses for all kinds of reasons. I think one of the things that they find is that you indicated that this is not easy work. It's hard. It's long hours. It can be frustrating. There's lots of jargon associated with learning all of the systems that are in place for businesses and funding can be challenging. So you know, that's why I'm here and the SBDC is here to help people to navigate all of that stuff, whether it's early on or whether they're at a point where they're ready to retire and are looking to sell their business to one of their staff members, for example.
[Koziol]: Exactly. And you know Nora, I think succession planning, whether you're selling it to a family member or to put it on the market is maybe not addressed enough. And we're going to talk a little bit in just a moment about all the systems that are in place because Nora and I both work with a wide variety of highly capable people all coming at it in a very collaborative sense, often times under the umbrella of Prosperity Southwest, which is a regional economic development entity that brings all the resources together so that we make sure that we are in concert and not overlapping and supporting one another. But there is some isolation I find with entrepreneurs. You've got a great idea. And you're terrific at building a chopper box. You've got a new widget that you can definitely bring to market. But maybe you're not terrific at everything that takes running a business. Where do you see nor people coming up short or does it run the gamut from accounting to HR to? Do I, manage my cash flow in a certain way? Do you see commonality when you're working with business owners of where they really need to bump up their game?
[Roughen-Schmidt]: You know, that's a great question. I think that, you know, so many people have different strengths and so forth. But I do see a lot of people who either are just starting their business or who have been in business for quite some time that actually don't have a business plan yet. And I find that business plans are such a good tool to use and something to refer to so that you can always. Remind yourself of The Who, what, when, where, why, how. Businesses are always changing, the world is changing, what customers want and what people want is changing. Different offerings from the state and the government are changing. So it's really good to have a solid business plan and also to revisit that plan on an annual basis and make sure that your goals and aspirations and those that you think you're serving. And who you'd like to serve are still reflected in that document.So I see a lot of people that have never had one and just kind of you know, wing it so to speak. And I I think that it's always good to be able to refer back to something like that and to continue to edit it. It's almost like a, you know, a story that just continues going. So I find that that is something that a lot of folks are lacking and. We have outstanding templates and services to help people through business plans and everyone has a different way of doing things. If you're a creative person and you like to draw, we have some really nice templates that you can use your artistic skills or we have very comprehensive, very wordy long business plans. So we really have something for everyone and I do feel that that is an outstanding tool and that everyone should have one and keep it up.
[Koziol]: Absolutely. I completely agree. It's not something that you're just sort of sit on a shelf and say, well, I've got my funding, so I don't need to ever go back to that. And oftentimes, as in the life cycle of a business, things can change. When I first started my company, I thought it was a marketing communications firm and my customers quickly told me that they didn't really need those services, but they were afraid of dealing with the press. So I pivoted into marketing and public relations. And was very successful in that, in that pattern. Again, it's based on where are you now. And frankly, I'm sure you can agree with this Nora, you don't really as an entrepreneur, have time to just sort of lollygag and sit back and ponder. But you need to take that time to reinvest and look at where you are and what other adjustments you need to make.
[Roughen-Schmidt]: Yeah, absolutely. And you need to be able to really express to bankers and potential investors and other folks exactly what it is you're doing and why and who you're serving and all of those things, they really matter. It's helpful to have a comprehensive document and also planned a little elevator pitch that goes along with that. And as you build out staff so that you can communicate. I mean if you're solopreneur, Even then, you still need a plan, but as you build out staff, you need it even more so that everyone kind of understands overall, you know, heading in this direction, Cohesively,
[Koziol]: Absolutely. And then you know, as far as staff, it's good that you mentioned that there's so many small businesses that have never had staff before. So that is a very. of intimidating process, bringing people on. How does all of that work? What is the accounting side of that? What are the taxes like? And then most importantly, and this is something that's often forgotten, is what are the expectations for the employee. So do you have an employee manual? Do you have terms and guidelines set out? Not only, you know for the new hires, but for yourself and the rest of the team? It's incredibly important that when bringing on staff that all of those things are communicated.
[Koziol]: Absolutely. Because you're right. I mean if you don't have policy on harassment and whether are you a subcontractor or true employee, those can come back to haunt you a little bit. So I know that Norah, both you and I have worked with Jeff Glazer and the UW Entrepreneurship Law Clinic, another terrific resource to help navigate some of these things. it's not insurmountable and having employees allows you to. You know, move on to different tasks as you start to hand stuff off. So it's a great move, but it needs to be well thought out, right? Absolutely. That makes me think about also the other resources that we have in the area. We've talked a little bit about it. So SBDC is one of my definite go to's. Can you tell us anything about the other resources in the region that they're some of your prime partners to hand off the different kinds of needs and tasks and businesses to?
[Roughen-Schmidt]:bSure absolutely. There are entities and folks that are available in the Southwest to refer clients to, like their local Chambers of Commerce or main streets. Those folks are doing really good work and they are there to support businesses. Often you can find some nice free advertising through their newsletters and their social media profiles. They have access to grants and other things. So I always encourage clients who are new businesses or more seasoned businesses, but have just never gone this route before to check in with their local chambers and main streets. There are also some really good networking opportunities and then economic development entities. There are many of them throughout the region. They are always great resources depending on what the needs of the business are. They are there. To assist, sometimes there can be some financial assistance folks and some revolving loan funds and other grants that are available through those entities. and. There are so many different opportunities within the Southwest to meet other entrepreneurs and network and learn and socialize. So I always try to direct clients to some of those opportunities as well. There's nothing better than learning from somebody who's been through some of the things that you have
[Koziol]: Absolutely. And Speaking of that, we are going to be starting to run at the Platteville business incubator, the monthly Makers Mashup, which will be a fun networking and educational session. They're going to start in August and they're going to run the second Tuesdays and August is going to, we're going to talk about cash flow for a few minutes. September is going to be setting up to sell your business, October is legal advice. And November's going to be business advice from a local global triathlete. So we'll be talking more about that. Nora gave me the perfect segue. You know how to get that information in, and I agree, we are, spunky and scrappy out here in the southwest of Wisconsin. The marvelous thing, in addition to our partners, is it's affordable to actually start your business here. If you're going to a larger city, your home is going to cost more. Perhaps schooling will cost more advice or consultants may cost more where in the southwest Laura's referred to funding. We also have resources at the platform business incubator and you can get housing there for your business and manufacturing and low interest loans. WWBIC, the Wisconsin Business Initiative Corporation, they have money and services. Southwest Cap serves another segment. So start with Nora or myself, any of you businesses that might be listening. And we're going to direct you to the right place, so have No Fear there, Nora. I wanted to just circle back to you and your amazing career. Is there anything in your career you wish you would have done differently? Or are you where you need to be and everything made sense, looking back?
[Roughen-Schmidt]: Wow, that is a huge question, Kate. I think that everything that I have done so far in my career has prepared me for this moment, the experiences that I've had, the people that I've worked with. The, you know, different aspects of running organizations, staffing, funding, fundraising, navigating different things in communities from, building projects to to special initiatives. Has sort of just prepared me for this moment and to meet all of these interesting people who have just fantastic ideas for businesses and to support them along the way I'm in my dream job. Kate, I don't know what else to say.
[Roughen-Schmidt]: I love it. I love it. I I told my boss when I was hired for this position. I said I would almost do this job for free. Because it is so. so fun and challenging. It's like a jigsaw puzzle every single day. And there's, you know, there's smiles and even when there's tears, they're like, you know what? We can do this. We'll figure this out. It's rewarding. It is. It is. It's it's magical and it's beautiful. The Driftless is just gorgeous and it makes me smile every time I look out the window. It's fabulous. We're running short on time, but I just in closing, wanted to ask, nor, you see so many businesses and you see where we might have some gaps. is there any line of work or segment or industry where you see, you know what, there's opportunity right here that might get someone thinking about starting a business, anything that you can offer as to where there's opportunity here in the Driftless region?
[Roughen-Schmidt]: It's another really great question. I think that that opportunity exists in a lot of different industries, especially for creative approaches to things. So you know whether it's a farm based business. A food based business where you're starting out baking at home or you have a location where you're using a commercial kitchen. There's so many opportunities in tech right now and for different apps, whether they're related to tourism or services. retail is still kind of wide open, especially when you can do some really creative things combining forces with other folks who have interesting items for sale. I think any kind of creative approach is welcome and I am seeing some of the most fantastic ideas that I have seen in many, many years coming out of the Southwest. So I think. It really is our time to shine here in the Driftless area and I'm just so thrilled to be part of this, this renaissance.
[Koziol]: Yes, I love it. What a gorgeous word to end on. And there's room for more. So if you're not here in the Driftless, come and join us. If you are here and you're thinking about starting a job, start with Nora. I'd be a happy to be a resource as well. We're all holding hands here and making some magic happen, so. If you want to talk to the wonderful Nora Rowan-Schmidt with the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center, you can reach her and start a conversation there through Wisconsin SBDC.org. Or So, Nora, again, thank you for your generosity of your time today and the ability to share with others. What we've got going here in Wisconsin and bringing all your expertise and being such a valued partner in the community, it is a little bit magical here in the Driftless and you're part of that. So thank you.
[Roughen-Schmidt]: Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much. Kate And I did just want to mention too, if anyone does want to just send me a quick text message or give me a call, 608-716-9441 is my number. So don't ever hesitate to reach out. I love all questions, so please be in touch.
[Roughen-Schmidt]: Again, that's Nora Rowan Schmidt, who is a business wizard with the Southwest Wisconsin Small Business Development Center. And I'm Kate Koziol, host of the Driftless Makers Podcast. Talking about the hacks, horror stories, and humor of running your own business.