Helping hands

CN&R file photo

Sophie Konuwa is intimately familiar with business in Butte County. As director of the Butte College Small Business Development Center (SBDC), she helps entrepreneurs and established owners to succeed and grow. Konuwa is schooled in preparing business plans, marketing and consulting, and she is eager to help any businesses affected by the Camp Fire. The SBDC is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), which has set up stations in Chico’s old Sears building as well as in Oroville in the Department of Development Services building at 7 County Center Drive. To find out more about the SBDC and how it can help, go to buttecollegesbdc.com.

How can your center and the SBA help local businesses?

The goal is to reach out to anyone connected to the Camp Fire. The SBA has computer stations where they can sit with you to put through a request for funding assistance. We are funded through the SBA. We will work with any business owner who is looking to restart their business. We sit with you and look at the business as a whole and look at your goals and objectives and how can you re-establish that?

What about businesses that weren’t physically damaged by the fire?

Loans are available to anyone connected to the Camp Fire. If you were affected in any way by the disaster—if you’re in Chico and you have employees who lost their homes, you might need to look for help short-term. Or maybe you need to help those employees find housing. As long as it’s affecting your business in any way—it could be employees, or maybe you’re not able to reach your market in Paradise, so you need to reach new markets.

What’s your general approach to helping in a situation like this?

We look at the glass half full. Maybe it’s time to look at the business—you think, I need to start again, so what did I have issues with, what did I want to change? What are my new markets? Do you have obligations—tax or debt or contracting obligations? Let’s look at that and see how you can address those. This time around, you have an opportunity to really do everything right. We look at it as an opportunity.

Are you planning any workshops for fire victims?

I’m in the process of putting together a series to be held in December, a two- to three-week series targeted specifically for those businesses. The focus is going to be: How do you recover from this type of disaster? We’ll look at all of the things you need to do—address financial obligations; assess the replacement value of the business; relocation, whether it’s temporary or permanent. And it’s free for everyone.

Any parting words?

We’ve been through this in Santa Rosa, and then in Redding, so we are connecting to other SBDs to get their best practices. We want people to know that we understand your immediate needs, and … when you’re ready to look at your business needs, we’re here.

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