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Tenn Leads COC Expansion of Small Business Into San Fernando Valley

College’s Small Business Development Center expands its reachThe Small Business Development Center at College of the Canyons has turned to an entertainment industry consultant to lead its expansion in the San Fernando Valley to support fledgling business owners. Ben Tenn rotates between three Valley locations to counsel a dozen clients and produce monthly workshops to address financing, marketing and general business plan issues. The free counseling replicates a service the center has provided in the Santa Clarita Valley since locating to College of the Canyons in 2006. The center has served an estimated 5,000 businesses, business owners and entrepreneurs. Having made inroads in Santa Clarita, the center’s leadership decided to make an aggressive move toward expansion into the San Fernando Valley. Tenn was chosen after he approached former center director Paul De La Cerda and interim assistant director Donna Plummer last fall about how the center and his consulting firm could work together to help businesspeople. Their conversations evolved into Tenn becoming the small business advisor for the Valley and starting the counseling services in February. Tenn, however, does not work alone but has a team of other business professionals he can call whose expertise falls into areas he is not familiar with. “I may be the first business advisor in San Fernando Valley in three years but I am bringing 10 others with me,” Tenn said. Tenn brings more than 30 years of business experience to the advisor role, including executive positions at Activision and The Walt Disney Co. In 1996, he opened his independent consulting firm serving clients in the entertainment industry. (Tenn is also a regular contributor to the Business Journal.) Attempts to reach interim center director Charlie Gill were not successful. The timing of Tenn joining the center coincides with the appointment of a new permanent director and takes place just months after the center’s recognition by the community college chancellor’s office as one of the top 10 in the state, the only center in Southern California to make the list. In addition to individual counseling, the center also started the Mastermind peer mentoring program which has seen its weekly meetings grow to include 100 members; and a young entrepreneur program that reaches out to young people starting businesses and linking them with community leaders. In expanding to the San Fernando Valley, the center will start with individual counseling and the monthly workshops. The North Valley Chamber of Commerce in Northridge, and Premier America Credit Union and Build WorkSource, both in Chatsworth, are providing space for Tenn to meet with his counseling clients. Premier also offer the Small Business Center the use of its corporate training room which is fitted with a dozen computers as a site for QuickBooks training. As the center falls under the auspices of the U.S. Small Business Administration, clients receiving counseling need to reach certain milestones. The program’s success, and Tenn’s as the lead counselor, will be judged based on new companies started, existing companies adding or retaining employees, and the amount of new funding a business brings in. “I am charged with accomplishing something and not just to have conversations,” Tenn said. Some of the topics discussed at the monthly workshops are also addressed by other groups assisting small business owners, including the all-volunteer SCORE program of the Small Business Administration and the Valley Economic Development Center. Since there are so many small businesses in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys multiple organizations are needed to give assistance, Tenn said. “We are not competing with the good work of those organizations but are a complement to them,” Tenn said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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