An interview with Frank Brisbois, director of the Illinois Small Business Development & International Trade Center at the College of Lake County.
Q: Tell us about the SBDC International Trade Center in Grayslake.
A: The Illinois Small Business Development & International Trade Center (Illinois SBDC/ITC) at the College of Lake County assists Lake County entrepreneurs and innovators start small businesses. The center also assists existing small businesses expand and grow.
Our mission is to assist in job creation, support entrepreneurship, business start up, domestic and global expansion, productivity, and strengthen Lake County's small business community. The SBDC/ITC at the College of Lake County accomplishes this through free, confidential one-on-one advising, low-cost workshops, networking opportunities and business development expertise.
Q: Who does the center cater to?
A: The Illinois SBDC/ITC serves Lake County small businesses from new to experienced. Our International Trade Center assists small businesses export products and grow globally. We help business owners anywhere in their business cycle.
Q: Tell us a little bit about the history of the center and how it was started.
A: CLC was asked to be a host institution in 1985 to serve the residents of Lake County and to build economic independence. The Illinois Small Business Development Center became part of CLC's Workforce and Professional Development Institute in 2007. WPDI provides training, consulting, and cutting-edge courses for businesses, professionals, and the community. The SBDC added an International Trade Center in 2013 to provide export and import counseling. On an annual basis, the Center serves more than 500 businesses.
Q: Many people are not aware that this is in Lake County. How are you spreading the word?
A: The Illinois SBDC/ITC is part of the Workforce and Professional Institute at CLC. We are included in WPDI's promotional pieces as well as attending networking events, presenting at community speaking engagements, chamber outings and events, social media (find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter) and local media such as the Daily Herald Business Ledger. And, of course, we promote by word-of-mouth. Our clients are our best promoters.
Q: What other services do you provide?
A: The Illinois SBDC/ITC provides:
• Free, confidential one-on-one business advising in both English and Spanish
• Assistance developing business plans and financial statements
• Aid forming strategic marketing plans
• Provide information on federal, state and local loan programs and angel investments
• Support securing loans with local lenders and service providers
• Review cash flow issues and offer solutions
• Identify potential global markets
• Share international trade knowledge and expertise
• Access to vital business resources
• Offer low-cost, interactive small business workshops, including: Starting Your Business in Illinois QuickBooks Legal Aspects of Business Ownership Start Strong Business Boot Camp Social Media for Small Business
• Workshops are offered at CLC's Grayslake and Southlake Campuses. We also offer online classes for the convenience of busy business owners.
Q: Tell us about the atmosphere there.
A: The Illinois SBDC/ITC's professional office space is conducive to confidential, one-on-one advising located at the College of Lake County's Grayslake Campus, room T302. We also have a resource library available for clients use. Clients can access valuable small business resources, use a computer for business purposes, or steal a few moments away to plan and strategize their next business venture. We also offer advising at CLC's Lakeshore Campus in Waukegan and Southlake Campus in Vernon Hills. Advisors are also available, by appointment, at the Lake Villa Library.
Our advisers are seasoned, small business owners who have walked in our clients' shoes! They are a team of experts ready to share their business expertise.
Q: What is one interesting fact about the center that most may not know?
A: The Center will celebrate its 30 year anniversary in 2015. The SBDC/ITC will be celebrating three decades of small business success.
Another interesting fact is we are also an International Trade Center. Our International Trade Specialist, Nicole Massey-Pratt, offers confidential, one-on-one strategic export counseling.
Q: How long have you been the director? What is your previous experience?
A: I have been the director since September 2013. I joined the Small Business Development Center as a business adviser in 2011. In 2012 the center became an International Trade Center (ITC). To assist our clients, I earned my certification as a Certified Global Business Professional.
Previously, I worked at Lake County Partners and focused on the origination of Small Business Administration 504 Loans, the packaging of SBA 7a Loan Guarantees and Industrial Revenue Bond financing. I have over 20 years' experience working in commercial banking and have held management positions at LaSalle Bank, First Midwest Bank, Bank of Lakehurst and Home Savings and Loan Association in Lake County and have also worked in the Human Resources/Personnel Recruitment field.
Q: What is the connection with the center to CLC?
A: The College of Lake County provides operational funding for the Center as well as space for administrative staff, counseling and training courses and workshops. The Center on behalf of its clients may avail itself of research and subject matter experts associated with the College.
• For more information, contact the Illinois Small Business Development and International Trade Center, (847) 543-2033 or illinoisSBDC@clcillinois.edu