Texas Wesleyan Small Business Workshop

Over the weekend, I attended a free workshop put on by the Texas Wesleyan University School of Business entitled How to Start or Run a Small Business. The workshop was led by a gentleman named James Johnson and was located at the Best Western Inn & Suites at 2000 Beach Street in Fort Worth.

This is the first workshop of its kind that I’ve been too, and overall it was a positive experience. The workshop was offered last Saturday at either 9:30AM or 1:00PM. I attended the morning session along with a hundred or so other quests and we received a pamphlet of information and a lecture from Professor Johnson regarding the ins and outs of business start-ups.

I went to the workshop with three goals in mind. Although I wasn’t entirely successful, I took away enough to make the experience positive, and to make my next attempt more worthwhile. My goals in attending the small business workshop were:

  • Get some free advice on running a small business (duh);
  • Network with a group of individuals interested in starting their own businesses (who may need websites);
  • Introduce my visiting cousin Emily to the Texas Wesleyan School of Business as a potential major when she goes to college.

As far as the free business advice is concerned, you get what you pay for. The speaker at the seminar was very knowledgeable about starting a running a business, but with limited time was only able to speak in generalities. The positive side of this was that I took away a list of topics (some of which I had not considered before) that I could research on my own. In addition to the generalities there was enough time for some specific and helpful information that included (from my notes):

  • Some of the major tax benefits of owning your own business,
  • The five most popular business start-ups (importing is on the list, FYI),
  • How to mathematically price your product,
  • An introduction to the most common types of business arrangements (sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations).

Because the seminar was free, I expected to receive sales pitch and was not disappointed. Throughout the presentation, the speaker referred to materials and services produced by the university that you could buy or register for in the hallway. He also encouraged attendees to sign up for various classes the university offered throughout the presentation. Again, since the workshop is free, I expect the university to push their own agenda and do not fault them for it. Some of the materials and classes would probably be very useful to many of the audience members.

In trying to turn the event into a networking opportunity, my own mistakes led to failure. I was afraid that going to the early class on Saturday morning would mean fewer network opportunities, but I was incorrect. The room was filled with a hundred or so individuals (although the speaker alluded to a slightly larger afternoon class).

My mistake, and one that I will not repeat, was failing to arrive early. By the time we got there, the room was full, and there were no opportunities to talk to the people around us before the presentation started. In addition, the structure of the facility was such that at the end of workshop there was no reason for people to mill around and network. I did meet one individual in the parking lot, but I think I would have done better by arriving 20 or 30 minutes early so I could talk to people as they arrived. I feel like the potential was there, but I did not make the best use of it.

The only real drawback to this event, and one that I can not find a silver lining for, was the facility. The Best Western hosting the event was definitely past its prime in need of maintenance. Large rainstorms earlier in the week meant buckets in the hallway to catch water and dirty brown ceiling tiles which lent an atmosphere of depression that was directly counter to the positivity the speaker was trying to produce. The audio system was non-functional and technical difficulties ate into the class time. Coffee service was not provided, but there was a water cooler. This last part was not as much a concern for me because I brought my own from Starbucks and recommend others do the same.

I do understand that the university can only afford a certain quality of facility in order to make such workshops profitable, but I feel they did themselves a disservice by not choosing a cleaner and more presentable location to represent themselves. I personally would have shrugged it off, but I had to explain to my visiting cousin afterwards that she should expect more from a college facility and that this was not typical.

One a scale of 1-10, I rate this experience a 6. I think with more effort on my part, I could have turned it into a 7 or an 8. I did learn some new things, and I did generate one new lead, so I feel it was worth my time. If you have a free Saturday morning and you can handle some of the negatives I mentioned, I recommend it – either for potential business owners, or as a possible networking event.

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