This week I attended a Small Business Development (CDMYPE) event at CIFCO. It was an interesting event to attend, on several levels.
I wanted to go, in order to find out what the event had to offer. I have been struggling with some differences in running a small restaurant and brewery here, and hoped there were some specific services of interest in attendance.
My list included
1) Is there a fairly inclusive restaurant supply delivery service? Where I could make a weekly order for all my paper goods and cleaners, and consumables in one swoop instead of driving all over the country every week? The whole company, including all staff, has just my one little SUV to share for all shopping, events and deliveries.
2) How about a POS system? I havent yet figured out why nobody but Roca Sunzal accepts credit cards in El Tunco. (other than maybe flexibility in sales reporting).
3) Payroll and Benefits. I am interested in a payroll service, and would love to find some alternative benefits for our staff.
4) More choices for printing and packaging.
The list goes on. Marketing ideas, display options etc. I have trouble finding businesses in el Salvador. I “know” they exist because I “reason that they must”, but have trouble locating them in any way other than word of mouth, unless they are a very large or international company. Since im not very friendly, word of mouth does not work for me.
I found half of one of the things on my list. I discovered that I can probably get a POS system if I can come up with enough documentation, and they make a visit to our business. I could not get a quote of the fees for the service, because the fees are decided during the site visit (?). After the conversation I suspected I understood why nobody has a POS. The fees are probably high, and the documentation discussion made it seem like it might be as difficult as opening a bank account here. (HARD for a foreigner in case you were wondering)
What the Small Business event did have was an ongoing set of seminars, many of which focused strongly on understanding finance. This is key, since every person who I spoke with about small business loans quoted interest rates around 40%. I started ducking people who were trying to sell loans. I need money to grow the business, but at that rate, maybe teenie tiny is good enough.
There was a very strong presence from both megabanks, and financial cooperatives. There was as strong presence for both cellular phone service, and phone systems. There were companies there ready to lease delivery trucks. There was a tremendous show of strength from various educational and aid organizations working in the interest of developing a strong small and micro business base.
It was surprising that there were no companies in attendance trying to meet the most common needs for a small business. Perhaps some of these services dont exist in the same way here? Is it that there are truly only very small mom & pops, and giant companies that have dramatically different needs, with nobody in the middle who can use and pay for these other services? I dont know. I am a little stumped.
Either these services dont exist, or their owners found the idea of attending a event full of small and micro business people was not attractive enough to set up a booth. ( I do find that many people are convinced that there is no money to be made by reaching out to other small businesses) (I don’t know why).
On a positive note, learned about a novel cashless inter-business buying coop called puntoTRANSacciones. Businesses exchange goods and services in a cash free environment (transactions subject to taxes of course), based on a credit and debit system. I thought of it as facilitated bartering, and its a great idea.
In any case I did not find what I was looking for. It may not exist in a form I can use. But I hope that over the year I can spend a moment with the organizers and find out how to get more services of interest to small business owners into the event. If these services don’t exist….maybe I’m in the wrong business. I cannot be the only person with a little restaurant that does not want to run around to eight different vendors every week. There is money to be made meeting these very common needs.
A small business fair is a great way to shop for services normally. I hope that this one will develop itself fully to become a great event to attend annually to find new service providers, to network, and to attend great seminars that help you grow.