Secrets to success for small startups

By Kelly McCarthy

July 8, 2013 Updated Jul 9, 2013 at 1:07 AM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) For small start-up businesses, a lot of work goes into just getting the doors open. What does it take to then keep customers coming back?

Local business mentors said startups in the Twin Tiers are not lacking creative ideas. What entrepreneurs are lacking, they say, are solid plans.

Before the signs can be placed out front, and before a rush of customers come through the doors, a small startup business needs a good plan.

"The reason why there is such a high rate of business failure is not because they're not good at what they do," said Ginny Thompson, business advisor at SBDC, "Or there's no customers out there, it's because they did not develop a plan."

Which is what organizations like the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and http://www.greaterbinghamtonscore.org/ help create.

"However they don't have the expertise on how to manage," Thompson said. "That is the biggest failing is how to manage your business."

Mentors said the first two full years of a business are most important for its future success.

"There's so many things that somebody who doesn't have the business savvy can step in," said Mike Drake, marketing chairman of SCORE. "We call them pitfalls, those pitfalls can knock you right out of the commercial market."

Mentors at SCORE and SBDC know how to help create a long-term plan, but what can't be taught is the ambition for success.

"We just noticed that Owego did not have any frozen yogurt shops here," said Berry Bear Frozen Yogurt manager Melinda Spooner. "So we thought it'd be a great community idea to go ahead and bring a frozen yogurt shop here."

Berry Bear Frozen Yogurt didn't get to the grand opening without some surprises along the way.

"Keeping track of the inventory is probably our biggest challenge," Spooner said. "And that's the biggest thing here with this business."

Inventory and customer service its now all part of the journey that Spooner decided to join. But calling herself an entrepreneur has never been out of reach.

"It's always been a thought in my mind just because I'm from a family with a background that opens up businesses and everything," Spooner said. "Now the fact that it's happening makes me very excited."

Now that the doors are open, the next step it's keeping customers coming back for more.

"There are people who can just take the ball and run with it," Thompson said. "And just seem to have that sixth sense that makes them an entrepreneur from the first day."

Advisors at the SBDC said 95 percent of businesses receiving their help are still open after five years, and those business have created more than 200 jobs since October 2012.