Economic Development, Government, and Small Business & Startups

SBDC to offer online class for start-ups

Anyone can sign up but only Michigan residents get personal consultant.

January 30, 2015
| By Pete Daly |
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The Michigan Small Business Development Center, located at Grand Valley State University, is launching a new program called Start Smart Online.

The six-week training program focuses on starting new businesses quickly, and the fast-paced webinar series (one webinar each week) guides a budding entrepreneur through the key steps to launch.

“The Start Smart Online program offers information on business planning, marketing, financing and building a team that works,” said Cathleen Kaiser, statewide training manager for the Michigan Small Business Development Center. “The online program allows entrepreneurs the flexibility to plan for the start of their business without dramatically changing their workday schedule.”

The program uses the Lean Canvas approach to business planning and is led by experienced small business experts. Entrepreneurs enrolled in the program also will have access to Michigan SBDC business consultants in their region to help them customize and implement their plans. The goal is to be able to launch a business in six weeks.

The face-to-face consulting available to each Start Smart student at one of Michigan’s 12 SBDC centers around the state is included in the $99 cost of taking the online classes. The consultants will help each student fine tune his or her business plan.

Kaiser said anyone anywhere in the world can sign up for the SBDC’s Start Smart Online, but people outside of Michigan will have to find their own business consultant if they want personal help.

The SBDC offered a similar online educational program for entrepreneurs a couple of years ago and some of the enrollees were U.S. military personnel overseas who were hoping to start businesses once their military service was over and they were back in the States.

Start Smart Online uses a new approach to preparing a business plan. Many entrepreneurs are challenged by the planning process, but the Lean Canvas method uses a one-page business model that takes less than an hour to create and is said to be a faster and more effective way to communicate the business model to internal and external stakeholders.

Kaiser said the Start Smart Online program was originally planned to begin in February, but the SBDC is finding a lot of interest in it so it will now start March 4, allowing more people the opportunity to enroll. There will be four six-week sessions in 2015, with the others beginning May 6, Aug. 5 and Oct. 7.

All Start Smart Online webinar sessions are held 11 a.m.-noon on Wednesdays. Registration is required via the Michigan SBDC training website at More information is available at (616) 331-7480 or by emailing

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