Missouri State University’s Small Business and Technology Development Center director
2017 Small Business Outlook: Chrystal Irons
New to Springfield but not the SBTDC, Chrystal Irons works with small-business owners bridging the gap from startup to stability.
2017 Projection: Mild increases in small-business investments, employment growth and wages.
SBJ: What is the market going to look like for small businesses in 2017? Chrystal Irons: We’ve seen a huge increase and rapid growth, and that will slow down a little bit. But we’ll see an increase in investments, employment growth and wage growth here in the Springfield area.
SBJ: What are the biggest challenges? Irons: Finding and retaining talent. We have a great group of talent here, but it’s just retaining it and finding the right employees. And then investments for companies, so finding the proper funding that they need to finance the growth.
SBJ: How should small businesses go about funding? Irons: It’s really important for entrepreneurs to get educated about the different types of lending and what that does to their cash flow – it’s the lifeblood of any business. We work very closely with our lending partners here at the SBTDC, so we have a lot of (U.S. Small Business Administration) lending. We’re continuing to see that increase. We’re also seeing a lot of Stage II clients. By that we mean somebody who has 10 to 100 employees and about $1 million and up in sales. Many companies still are financing their own growth.
SBJ: Will the area see more startups in 2017? Irons: I believe that we will. We helped over 20 small businesses start last year.
SBJ: What advice do you have for those looking to start a business? Irons: Seek advice – talk to friends, family, mentors, people in the industry. We all may think we have a great idea, but either we can’t communicate it or other people don’t truly see it. Go through the process of really assessing the product, assessing the market and getting input.
SBJ: How will local consumers be impacted by small businesses? Irons: Consumers will continue to see a lot of options and a lot of technology. We will continue to be surprised as consumers as to what the small businesses can come up with, how they can keep us engaged and how they can continue to market to us so that we want to be a part of the culture they are creating. Not only are they worried about their brand, but they’re creating this culture and community around their products and services. A lot of consumers are jumping in and taking advantage of those types of opportunities to be a part of something.
SBJ: What do you see in technology? Irons: My advice to all small-business owners would be to develop a strategy around how are you going to continue to innovate. If you don’t have a strategy, you’re going to get left out and your competitors are going to run right over you. Consumers are smarter these days. We have access to information. We can compare prices as we stand in the store. We have to be aware of that as small-business owners.
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