Mark and Michaela Jehning took the class Minding Your Business from the Pikes Peak Library District to help them develop a business plan.
Mark and Michaela Jehning took the class Minding Your Business from the Pikes Peak Library District to help them develop a business plan.

Mark and Michaela Jehning are interested in buying an animal kennel in El Paso County. Before they do, they need to know how to write a business plan, research their competitors, pricing, costs, insurance, licensing, permits, accounting options, marketing, the neighborhood of the business and a thousand other details that are part of building a business.

Fortunately, they have help.

Mark Jehning had previously taken Minding Your Business, a free course in the Pikes Peak Library District, to help him launch a consulting business several years ago. So he knew the first step to take when the kennel opportunity came along — taking the class again.

Monday evening, for 90 fast-paced minutes, business librarian Terry Zarsky delivered a plethora of information and resources to people wanting to start or grow a business. Before class, Zarsky asked the students about their business interests so she could customize the examples during the course.

“You will learn a lot tonight,” Zarsky said, giving her business cards to the students so they could call her after class for follow-up meetings. Then she distributed 15 handouts to the eight business men and women in the class.

While all contain valuable resources, “I recommend keeping the top three,” Zarsky said.

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Mark and Michaela Jehning took the class Minding Your Business from the Pikes Peak Library District to help them develop a business plan.
Mark and Michaela Jehning took the class Minding Your Business from the Pikes Peak Library District to help them develop a business plan.

‘Powerful database’

The first, a 47-page how-to guide on accessing online databases from home or office, introduced students to Reference USA, “an extremely powerful database,” Zarsky wrote in the introduction.

Access to the database is given to PPLD patrons who own property in the district or patrons who access the database while at the library.

The library also has created YouTube tutorials on how to use Reference USA, which includes 10 component databases. Of those, the U.S. Businesses database has information from more than 23 million businesses in this country, and the U.S. Consumer/Lifestyles database covers 262 million households.

Budding business owners can use the database to find information about their competitors, as well as details about pricing, vendors and suppliers. The business database reveals standard information like names, addresses, phone numbers, numbers of employees, but also will give sales, credit ratings, the number of personal computers used, the year established, Yellow Page ad spending, square footage, names of local competitors, nearby businesses, business expenditures and Uniform Commercial Code filings.

If an entrepreneur wants to develop a list of potential customers with both high incomes and children, the U.S. Consumer/Lifestyle database is the place to go, Zarsky said.

This database has information on median household income, home values, percentage of owner-occupied housing and lifestyles, which enable researchers to pinpoint certain neighborhoods. It’s possible to create full listings of people in those neighborhoods.

Another one of the 10 components is a U.S. Health Care database, where Zarsky researched orthopedic surgeons to perform her knee-replacement surgery.

Business resources

The second handout is a spreadsheet listing business resources for entrepreneurs. It includes resources from local government to county, state and federal options.

Business people can rely on this five-page document for information on where to go if they are given a bad check, where to get a city sales tax license or a patent, where to file a consumer complaint, to get information on the Americans With Disabilities Act and far more.

Directories

The third handout was a five-page list of selected business directories at the Penrose Library and the East Library and Information Center, 5550 N. Union Blvd.

The list details manufacturers’ and businesses’ addresses, phone numbers, numbers of employees, owners or executives, sales and types of business. Some will also include websites, stock symbols and other information.

A sample of the listings includes the American Wholesalers and Distributors Directory, Colorado Aerospace and Defense Companies, the Directory of American Firms Operating in Foreign Countries, Business Cycle Indicators, Directory of U.S. Exporters, International Directory of Company Histories, Standard and Poor’s Bond Guide and Stock Reports and more.

Items in the Reference Collections cannot be checked out of the library, but older versions might be.

At the end of the 90-minute, lighting-fast course, the eight entrepreneurs left with information needed for the first phase of their businesses.

“This class is extremely informative,” said Mark Jehning.

“I could probably do my whole business plan in one day.”


Other suggested resources

• Zarsky recommends that early in their research process, people determine the SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) Code and/or the NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) Code for their new business. Entrepreneurs use them to research financials, potential markets, vendors and other information.

• The book, “How to Incorporate and Start a Business in Colorado.”

• The book, “SmartStart Your Colorado Business.”

• Crowdfunding tips, flyers from the library.

• Flyers about small business financing, online financing sources and frequently asked questions about business grants.