Cal Poly “opened the doors” to new tech-based businesses in the community yesterday at a ribbon cutting for the new Cal Poly Small Business Development Center for Innovation (SBDC).
The SBDC will help local technology-based start-ups grow by offering counseling and advice, according to congresswoman Lois Capps, who was responsible for getting federal funding for the project.
“The talk of doing this came around in the community with some of the high-tech companies that were here,” Capps said.
Though talk of an SBDC has been around for two decades, it wasn’t until two years ago that the dream began to take shape with the construction of the Cal Poly Tech Park, on Mt. Bishop Road.
“There was a field and they said, ‘We want to build something,’ and I was able to get some federal funding,” Capps said.
The result was the Tech Park, which is intended to foster innovation and entrepreneurship for Cal Poly students, Capps said.
She said the SBDC is just one service offered at the Tech Park to help Cal Poly students be successful.
“I hope it’s very encouraging for students because the job market doesn’t look very promising,” Capps said. “But you come to a place like this, and you see there’s a hope and an optimism.”
The Cal Poly SBDC is the second innovation-focused organization to open in the recently constructed Cal Poly Tech Park, after the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Cal Poly SBDC director Thea Chase said.
“It seemed like it made a lot of sense because we were already looking at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the SBDC was complimentary,” Chase said.
The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship provides guidance for students with new ideas and helps them build those ideas into businesses, Chase said. With the opening of the SBDC, students that have started a business can now turn to Chase and other business mentors to develop business models, establish finances and other business-related problems.
“It’s the next step,” Chase said. “When you become somewhat real, you step into the SBDC.”
The SBDC does not just offer guidance for Cal Poly students, though. Talks among the ribbon cutting ceremony focused on the university’s outreach to the community with this new center.
The SBDC is open to any tech-based start-up in the San Luis Obispo community, which is essential for good community relations, Cal Poly president Jeffrey Armstrong told the crowd.
“The economic development and connecting our faculty, staff and students to the community is absolutely critical,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong used the metaphor of the opening of the new SBDC being the opening of Cal Poly’s front doors to the local business community.
Most community members only visit the university for sporting events and theatrical or musical performances, but Armstrong said he wants the SBDC to be a “third front door” for the community into Cal Poly.
“We have to be more engaged with the community,” Armstrong said. “Not only being a good community member, but helping grow community business.”
This includes encouraging those tech-based companies to stay in San Luis Obispo, Armstrong said.
In his speech, Armstrong referenced Punch’d, a successful senior project that was bought up by Google, taking the economic activity out of San Luis Obispo county.
“This is about funding ways to create more opportunities so these bright folks stay here,” Armstrong said in his address.
The SBDC has already helped several local businesses in the area since its unofficial opening in April, SBDC assistant coordinator and economics senior Stephanie Ananian said.
All SBDC clients are technology-based in order to tie in with Cal Poly’s core focus.
“We’re serving the community focusing on technology merely because we’re at Cal Poly, which is a tech-based school,” Ananian said.
The SBDC’s counseling services are confidential, but Ananian has seen several promising new ventures, she said.
“We’re excited to see what innovation comes out of this,” Ananian said.