Starting, building and managing a new business enterprise (whether for-profit or non-profit) is both challenging and rewarding. The key is to have the business work for you and not the other way around! A great way to get started is to learn as much as you can about the entrepreneurial lifestyle, what it takes to start a business, effective business formation strategies and forms of ownership and how to grow and manage a successful going concern.

It also pays to find other like-minded people among your current friends, colleagues, and family and to seek out others that may share your passion for entrepreneurship and self-direction. Some great places to start are your local Garrett County Chamber of Commerce (15 Visitors Center Drive, McHenry, Maryland, 21541, 301.387.4386, ) and also local or state "meet-up groups" including Garrett Meets.

Also look to the Internet to search-out information on start-ups, marketing, finance, management and IT, but please make sure you are looking at a credible source. Also keep in mind that Garrett College offers Credit and Non-Credit courses and workshops alone and in partnership with Garrett County Economic Development, Garrett County Chamber and numerous state and federal institutions. Be sure to check out the News and Events tab on this website to see upcoming courses, workshops, seminars and roundtables.

Business Plans

Business plans are the roadmap for an enterprise's future success. They can be "short and sweet" or "long and technical" but must include certain key factors relative to targeted customer segments, offerings, product positioning, funding and other critical areas.

It is important to note, especially for the new entrepreneur or small business manager, that the business plan is important not just as a roadmap, but as an exercise that "forces" the business to assess, analyze and make decisions around strategy and tactics.

A sample business plan is available from the Center by clicking here . Numerous other examples and additional information insight is available on the Internet.

Raising capital before, during and after start-up is a critical part of any entrepreneur's experience-set. It can be easy and go smoothly or take many months of ups-and-downs. The key is to be prepared, be knowledgeable about available funding sources and start early in the process. It is safe to say that you and your company can never have too much cash-on-hand or be too liquid. Cash is the lifeblood of any enterprise and is truly the "oil that keeps the engine running."

All possible financing options should be considered, often in combination, including:
  • Personal Funds: Savings from personal funds is the "least expensive" and can be the least cumbersome way to get funding for your new enterprise. It is important to start saving for your business, and living expenses as the business "takes root," well in advance of business start-up. Many people also start their new enterprise while still employed full- or part-time, thereby using their "day job" cash flow to help fund the business and living expenses until such time as the business is self-funding. Finally, many people either take a "loan" from their 401k or take some of the proceeds of a 401k rollover upon leaving their job. Proceed with caution here and consult an accountant for advice as there are tax implication risks associated with this strategy.
  • Personal or real estate loans: Many people obtain a portion of their start-up resources from a personal loan or line of credit or a home equity line of credit or cash-out mortgage refinance. If this is a strategy you wish to employ, consider obtaining the loan before you leave your day job, as self-employed individuals, especially those in a start-up venture, can have a very difficult time getting a loan approval. Opening a home equity line of credit before you leave your job, and before you need to "draw-down" the line of credit, often makes sense. Please consider the fact that any loan needs to be paid back! Also note that any loan secured by your personal real estate risks foreclosure should you be unable to pay the loan back. Caution is the word here!
  • The 3 F's (Friends, Family & Fools): This can be a very reasonable and helpful funding source, as folks may be interested in sharing in the potential benefits of your venture. Remember that small business start-ups are risky, so ensure any investors know the risks, and be sure to put everything in writing. In addition, note that many investors consider themselves active partners even though the entrepreneur is seeking a silent partner. If you procure investments from the 3 Fs, understand that you may wind up with partners that you did not plan on! The key is to think things through, communicate expectations openly and thoroughly, seek legal advice and make sure all parties enjoy a "meeting of the minds."
  • Financial Institutions: Banks, non-bank financial institutions, and credit unions may provide a loan if the business plan is sound, with a strong management team. While many start-ups are un-bankable, as the term goes, there are exceptions. Banks also can offer SBA loans (see below) and can give good advice to entrepreneurs just starting out, so it pays to reach out to a few banks to discuss your opportunity and funding needs.
  • Angels & Venture Capitalists: Angel investors and their "next stage" cousins, the venture capitalists, can be a good source of funding for an enterprise. The Center works closely with the Mountain Maryland Angel Investment Group (MMAIG,, a group of investors in the Garrett County area, to review opportunities for investment. NOTE: Most professional sources of funds want to know that the entrepreneur is fully committed and that those closest to the entrepreneur are backing the venture before considering an investment or loan. Angels or VCs also want to see a strong, seasoned management team, a sound business model, a large and growing market for the product or service and sustainable competitive advantage for the venture (meaning, some barriers to prevent the competition from gaining a foothold in your markets).
  • Local, state, regional and federal funding sources: There are numerous governmental and quasi-governmental entities that serve the western Maryland region start-up community. Request the Western Maryland Lending Ecosystem pdf to obtain a listing of programs and details for funding sources. This pdf, also presented in Excel spreadsheet form, also includes information on bank, non-bank lenders, and other funding sources.

    Some of the agencies with potential funding and/or guidance for start-up and small enterprises include the following:

Garrett College Center for
Entrepreneurship & Innovation