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Plan for success before opening small business, advises SBDC
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Planet Beach A Contempo Spa owner Taura Whitehead and employees Danielle Naranjo and Nimi Gill survey their under-construction spa, set to open in August.


The recession has been particularly tough on small businesses, knocking more than 170,000 such businesses out of operation between 2008 and 2010, per U.S. Census Bureau Data.

But as more and more local residents find themselves jobless – or trapped in a job with no chance of advancement due to cutbacks – more Turlockers are turning to small business creation.

In the past year, 23 new small businesses opened in Turlock, creating 58 new jobs. And that’s only counting the small businesses which worked with the Small Business Development Center.

“I was pretty shocked myself,” said Al Seaton, lead consultant with the Turlock SBDC.

In part, Seaton credited the Turlock Partnership Incentives Program for the surge of interest — a program offering $1,000 cash to startup small businesses which complete a business plan and open in an existing storefront.

But even more entrepreneurs make the big decision to open a small business simply to create a job, or change their lives.

People walk through the SBDC’s doors with a wide range of business ideas, and an even wider range of preparation. Some have years of experience in an industry, while others just have a dream.

“You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to push across their life savings and everything they have just to make a dream happen,” Seaton said.

Starting a small business is no easy task. Seaton suggests businesses start out with a basic plan, forecasting revenues, expenses, and whether the business is actually viable. His office offers a small questionnaire to help write that business plan, as well as full counseling on the start-up process.

The difficulties of starting a small business are familiar to Taura Whitehead, a Turlocker who opted to purchase a franchise business. The help offered by the franchiser eased the process, but startup remained challenging enough for Whitehead to advise against going it alone.

“I wouldn’t do it,” Whitehead said. “Just trying to get your business plan set up is a tremendous amount of work.”

A 13-year veteran of the investment industry, Whitehead decided in 2011 that she wanted to become her own boss. So she did some research into franchise businesses related to health and wellness – an area of personal interest.

Whitehead came across Planet Beach Contempo Spa, a franchise that offers day spa amenities. Customers pay a flat monthly rate for unlimited fully automated push-button spa and UV services, ranging from massages to tanning and UV therapy.

Whitehead said the city permitting process was longer than expected, but city staff was very nice. More challenging was obtaining a small business loan in this economic environment; Whitehead says she was turned down by 30 banks before one finally said yes.

Seventeen months later, Whitehead expects to open Turlock’s first Planet Beach Contempo Spa in August at 2220 Monte Vista Ave., Suite B. A grand opening is expected in September, but only following a year of non-stop hard work.

 “Persistence is key,” Whitehead said.

For those considering starting their own small business, the Alliance Small Business Development Center will hold two free workshops in Modesto. Those workshops will discuss the process of starting a business, whether an idea has the potential for success, and a general overview of things to consider when starting a business.

 The workshops, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Aug. 1 and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 15, will be held at the Alliance SBDC, 1020 10th St., Suite 102, Modesto, CA.

For more information, call 567-4910. To register, visit