William “Bill” Freeman, business management consultant for the Maryland Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), has helped all kinds of entrepreneurs develop their businesses. From carryout owners to casket makers, Freeman draws on more than 30 years of business development experience, including 15 spent in Baltimore, to help guide entrepreneurs through the process of starting and sustaining a business.
Freeman maintains an office at the Graduate Research Innovation District (The Grid) in the Lion Brothers Building, where students and community members can get his expert advice on business plan development, 8(a) and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) application reviews, funding, and taking an established business to the next level. He has visited community meetings in Poppleton and Hollins Market, offering his services to community members, because, he says, “You never know, someone there could be the next Apple or the next Bill Gates.” Freeman says he sees himself as a flashlight, helping would-be entrepreneurs navigate through unknown territory.
On Jan. 31, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., aspiring and established entrepreneurs are invited to The Grid, 875 Hollins St., to meet Freeman and discover the free resources available to help make your business dreams come true. The free event is part of UMB’s commitment to serving the community.
Here’s a Q&A with Freeman:
What kind of clients do you serve?
We take all kinds of people — those that have ideas, those that are already in business, and those in existing business. We can help them in all phases wherever they are in the continuum. Sometimes when it’s an idea, they need assistance. When it’s a startup, they need things to grow their business. And then you have those who are in business and are looking to enhance that business.
How do you make an appointment?
You can email me at email@example.com, and I will get back to you with appointment information. Appointments last about an hour and a half, and the sessions are confidential followed by unlimited visits. It only depends on your time and mine, at no cost to you. We’re here to give whatever assistance you need to grow or start your business, and it’s really up to you how much of the services you want to use.
How important is it to have a business plan?
It’s definitely good to have an idea, primarily because it shows your enthusiasm to start a business. We will review a business plan to see if it has all of the components, particularly if you’re looking to borrow money. A business plan is a road map. It tells you where you are and where you want to go. Whenever you go on a vacation, you plan that vacation, and it’s the same thing with a business plan. It helps you determine how to get there.
How does your banking experience help in this role?
As a banker, I know what is needed out there in the working world. I’ve been a banker for some 20-25 years, and I have a pretty good idea as to what a company needs to grow their business. Particularly after sitting down and talking with you and finding out about your business, that will give me more information to help move your agenda forward.
Are you looking for a particular type of business?
We’re not looking specifically for any particular business. We want to help all business owners make their dreams come true. I have a variety of different businesses, from daycare facilities to a gentleman who makes caskets. It runs the gamut. I have a psychiatrist. I have dog walkers. I never know what’s coming in the door.
Do you need a lot of money to turn an idea into a business?
You don’t have to have a whole lot of money. You just have to have an idea and go forward and really believe in it. You have to believe in your heart of hearts it will work regardless of what people say. There may be a time that it doesn’t, but you’ll never know unless you try.
What is your goal for entrepreneurs who visit your office?
We want them to start that business because it gives a feeling of accomplishment. It also helps to create wealth, and that’s very important in today’s society because you’re able to leave something for your children and your grandchildren, and that in turn will allow them to grow. Additionally, it gives you more self worth that you’ve accomplished something, that you’ve made your mark.
To make a confidential business consultation appointment with Freeman, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To RSVP to the Jan. 31 “Meet Bill Freeman” event at The Grid, email email@example.com.
— Laura Lee