Various state and regional entities are hosting webinars to help local entrepreneurs start or grow their businesses via the Digital 395 project.
This ongoing, online series of business management webinars at Inyo, Kern and Mono County locations were designed to assist business owners find financing and more.
Webinars are a “nice way to introduce businesses to the Internet,” said Eastern Sierra Connect Regional Broadband Consortium Project Manager Julie Langou. ESCRBC, in collaboration with California State University Bakersfield’s Small Business Development Center, or SBDC, will broadcast the webinars throughout the year, from noon-1 p.m. every other Wednesday, starting Feb. 6. They are free for all Inyo, Mono and Kern County residents and small business owners.
SBDC Director Kelly Bearden will facilitate each webinar in an interactive chat room setting wherein attendees will be able to participate and ask questions, Langou explained. “The bi-weekly Wednesday webinar series offers business owners, or prospective ones, the opportunity to get a quick business lesson on a variety of current topics during the lunch hour from the convenience of their business, home or one of the many live webinar viewing sites we will be offering in Kern, Inyo and Mono counties,” Langou said.
The first in the year-long series of 25 webinar topics is Essentials of Crowdfunding, “a new concept, a new way to raise money,” Langou explained. According to the ESCRBC website, the next three webinar topics are scheduled as follows: Feb. 20: Start or Grow Your Business, which will provide marketing and finance information; March 6: Your Home Cottage Food Business, which will cover “the rules and regulations of starting a food business out of your home;” and March 20: Creatively Funding Small Businesses, which will focus on the latest information on finding ways to raise money to grow or start a business. Some unique loan programs and other seldom discussed ideas will be presented, too.
The public is invited to attend the SBDC webinars in group-site settings intended to elevate the “chatroom” format to a roundtable, think tank type of environment, Langou said. These group-site meeting rooms are equipped with 55-inch HD TVs, Wifi and iPads. Langou added that the equipment, courtesy funding from the California Public Utility Commission, will remain at each site for future webinar and teleconferencing purposes.
In Inyo County, the cyber seminars will be held in the Bishop City Hall conference room, located at 377 W. Line St. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org  or visit http://www.ca-bishop.us .
Individuals may also individually access the webinar series at http://escrbconsortium.org . Click “Using the Internet,” then click “Business Webinars,” Langou said. Registration is mandatory at this point, however SBDC webinars are free to residents.
Langou said that ESCRBC and SBDC will asking for feedback after the first four seminars are completed, in order to better serve small business owners and other attendees throughout the year. In the future, Langou said, ESCRBC plans to create more webinar group sites to include Tecopa, Lone Pine, Big Pine, Independence, Lake Isabella, Kernville and Ridgecrest.
In addition to attending the webinars, Langou said she encourages people to use SBDC, which, “is doing a lot of good things for businesses; They do one-to-one consulting for free,” for example.
“Our overall goal is to really help technology work for small local businesses,” Langou said. “If they have questions regarding technology; so they know they are not alone; so they don’t feel like they are struggling on their own; to enable discussion and problem solve. In today’s world, businesses have to adapt very quickly or be in trouble very, very quickly. That’s why we want to be reactive to their need to know the latest technology; changing customer needs; and how technology changes affect them and their businesses.”