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Woodbury Explores Development of Family Business Center

Plans for a new family business center are brewing at Woodbury University, more than a year after California State University, Northridge, put its center on hiatus indefinitely. Woodbury’s School of Business recently launched a lecture series geared towards family businesses and entrepreneurs as a first step in the development of a center and as a way to explore the potential need and demand for such a center in the San Fernando Valley. “We’re fishing. We’re really exploring at this point, trying to ascertain, is there something here? And if it is, what’s our goal? And I think the best market research is trying things,” said Don E. St. Clair, Vice President, Enrollment Management and University Marketing at Woodbury. “We think that family business, small business, and entrepreneurial activities are the heart of the economy in the U.S. and California, and certainly in the San Fernando Valley, and we want to find the spot that we can most effectively support those activities to mutual benefit.” Ultimately, Woodbury’s School of Business would like to position itself as a valued resource for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the San Fernando Valley, St. Clair said. Beyond the lecture series, the University is thinking about the possibility of developing a research center to collect data on family businesses in the San Fernando Valley and answer a wide array of research questions about their numbers, size, organizational structure, needs, patterns etc. A Woodbury family business center would also provide networking opportunities for people to connect with other small businesses as well as with those professionals, such as attorneys and accountants, which serve family businesses, he said. “We don’t see this as something we’re going to succeed or fail at in the next 90 days. We see this as a longer term process,” St. Clair said. The family business and entrepreneur lecture series kicked off June 11 with a one hour review of the five big things small businesses should know about taxes, presented by John E. Kerayan, chair of the accounting department. Two other lectures were scheduled for the 18th and 25th of June. One will discuss capital access and the other will focus on issues that family businesses face when traversing the multi-generational divide. “I see incredible value in Woodbury being able to provide a platform for small businesses and becoming a resource to provide practical information to businesses,” said Cian Mitsunaga, founder of Mitsunaga Law Firm, who was among the handful of business owners attending the lecture at 7 a.m. “I think this can really give different ideas and strategies for businesses to follow, especially during this economic upheaval that we’re going through,” said Charles Lombardo, Vice President of a San Fernando Valley based bank, who was also an attendee. Financing for the lecture series was provided by the Andy Gump Company, which was also a supporter of the Family Business Center at California State University, Northridge. “We believe the foundation of our economy is family businesses and entrepreneurs – we know that’s how our business started,” said Sharon Manley, Chief Financial Officer at Andy Gump. “A family business center is certainly beneficial and valuable because through those meetings and exchanges, family businesses will be exposed to things that most likely, at some point down the road, they will have to address.” Andy Gump’s contribution of $5,000, provided the seed money to get the project started, said St.Clair. The idea for the center came about after the Family Business Center that operated at California State University, Northridge under the leadership of Professor David Russell, closed in March of 2008. CSUN College of Business Dean William Jennings determined at the time that it was no longer feasible to operate the center in large part because of Russell’s increased teaching schedule, which would allow him little time to focus on the center. “They [CSUN] made a decision that that center was no longer an efficient use of their time and resources and I’m respectful of that,” St. Clair said. After the CSUN center closed, Woodbury was approached by members of the community, some who had had some association with the CSUN Family Business Center. “[We were] asked if we would be interested in such an initiative and we said yes,” St. Clair said. “We think intuitively that there is a need for this, if we reach the same conclusion that others have reached, that it’s not an effective or efficient use of our time we’ll turn in a different direction, but we’re not likely to make that determination any time soon.”

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