Business start-up help available

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Ruth Sena opened Simply Salads in the Hilltop Plaza earlier this month, but had planned on opening the doors to the all-you-can-eat salad restaurant nearly one month before.

The problem was, she custom ordered the salad bar tables, and when you’re opening one small business and not a chain, you’re at the mercy of your supplier.

“It’s like building a house and you’re wanting a certain countertop,” said Sena.

Most business owners have a different problem. They’re not thinking about serving greens — they’re thinking about getting green.

“Capital’s always No. 1,” said Sena, who was able to find investors through contacts with her food distribution company. That’s an advantage other startups may not have.

That’s a problem the state hopes to alleviate through Finance New Mexico, which helps small business owners find the right resources for capital.

Finance New Mexico, conceived five years ago through the Small Business Investment Corp., provides information through its Web site and media outlets to match money lenders and small business owners, and helps people interested in starting new businesses.

“You have to be almost a magician in my mind,” said SBIC financial advisor Paul Goblet, “because you have to be the CEO, the head salesman. You have to wear so many hats as a small business owner.

“We’re trying to remove one of those obstacles, and that’s making access to getting capital easy.”

Tom Eakes, Finance New Mexico spokesman, said capital is a big challenge for first-timers because of two factors. First, banks aren’t eager to lend to people with business dreams but no track record. Second, it’s sometimes hard to know if you are looking for investment partners, business loans or other capital sources.

“What was happening,” Eakes said, “was that small businessmen didn’t understand intricacies of dealing with these other people (and) they’d call the wrong people … The result is, the little guy gets intimidated and he figures, ‘The (heck) with it.’”

Eakes said Finance New Mexico’s Web site has several tools and articles related to starting, expanding and financing small businesses.

With the help of the Web site, Goblet hopes for more educated applicants for capital.

“When they make an inquiry about capital, they’re more prepared,” Goblet said. “They’ve thought about business plans. They have the documents any lender is going to ask for. You increase your likelihood of somebody saying yes.”

And maybe a yes gives another person a chance to do what Goblet said business does best — fill needs. After all, that’s what inspires business owners like Sena.

“There wasn’t really a salad place,” Sena said. “I felt Clovis needed something like that.”