Bethany Verkilen of Granton came looking for advice after her husband bought a logging truck to go into business for himself. After 20 years as a plumber, Damien Oberle of Menomonie is on the verge of breaking out on his own. Jim Chich of Knapp is considering a number of business ideas, while Denise Parker of Mondovi is looking at property in Pepin to open a boutique.
Their ideas varied, but these entrepreneurs and about 100 others came to Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) Thursday, Nov. 16 for advice. “Starting a Business: Step One” featured a panel of experts who have either started their own businesses, or assisted others in doing so, providing advice and networking opportunities to people who came from throughout the area, bringing their own ideas and dreams.
“A lot of people have an idea for a business, but they don’t know what to do or what first steps they should take,” said Ben Zugay, instructor in CVTC’s new Entrepreneurship program, who served as moderator for the session. “Tonight we’re highlighting resources for them, like Western Dairyland and economic development organizations.”
“This is an opportunity for people in an environment that is nonthreatening to listen and learn a little more before they take the next step,” said Luke Kempen, with the UW-Eau Claire Small Business Development Center, one of the panelists at the event.
Some entrepreneurs attending were still considering ideas.
“We’ve been toying with ideas of different kinds of businesses, but we haven’t decided on anything yet,” said Chich, who attended with his wife. “I am starting a wood processing business right now — processing and selling firewood, and I’d like to expand on that. I’m also interested in what ideas others have.”
Chich added that after 10 years in the service and years “punching a clock,” he’s ready for something different. “There’s an advantage to being in business for yourself,” he said.
Parker, who has a Marketing degree from CVTC, is already working on finding a building for her boutique. “I’m halfway through my business plan,” she said. “I’ve been working on this for the past two years.”
Parker worked retail jobs for 16 years, so she has plenty of background in the field — just not background as an owner. “I need to know more about the business side of things — the regulations and taxes. I want to hear the perspective of other business owners and what they learned along the way.”
Verkilen expects to handle the business side of things as her husband goes into the logging business with his own truck. There’s a lot she wants to know.
“I need information on how to handle taxes, and get a federal I.D. number,” Verkilen said. “We have to get a DOT number for the truck. And what about insurance, for the truck, for the business, and the place you keep the truck. I’m sure there’s information on some things I never thought of asking.”
Oberle is trying to decide whether to start a plumbing business of his own or take over the one he’s been working for. “I’m looking for any ideas I can get here,” he said. “More information is better.”
The event connected entrepreneurs with resources for more information and assistance, including at CVTC.
“CVTC has a brand-new technical diploma program in entrepreneurship,” Zugay said. “It’s a 17-credit program with six courses related directly to entrepreneurship. We also have a mentor program that connects entrepreneurs with people who have had the same experience.”
The Start a Business event was the first at CVTC. Zugay said he hopes to make it an annual event.