GUSTINE - West Side business owners - and prospective entrepreneurs - will have the opportunity to tap into a variety of resources Thursday, Feb. 27, at a local business expo.

The free event, which will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m., is being sponsored by the city of Gustine, Gustine Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Development Center based at UC Merced.

Jami Westervelt, the city’s economic development director, said the event will offer round-table discussion groups as well as the opportunity for entrepreneurs to meet one-on-one with business experts.

Topics of the expo include simple strategies to get customers in the door, essential elements of building repeat business and business plans and strategies for success.

Westervelt said the expo is designed as an outreach to the West Side business community. The event is open to all interested parties, Westervelt stressed, and Newman entrepreneurs are welcome to join their Gustine counterparts

at the expo.

“We have been looking for resources to assist businesses in the community,” Westervelt told Mattos Newspapers. “When you own a business, it is not an 8-5 thing. Our small business owners (dedicate) the majority of their lives to running these businesses. We live remotely from Merced. They don’t have time to close up shop during the day to try to find the resources to keep them going. The idea is to bring something to them.”

The format will feature concurrent round table discussions. Those attending can rotate through each of the topic areas, or choose only those which are of interest to them.

“There will also be an area for people to just sit down one on one with an expert in business to ask whatever questions they want to ask,” Westervelt noted. Given the complexities of running a small business, she added, “it is helpful for them to be able to talk to somebody face to face.”

In addition to tapping into the expertise, Westervelt reflected, business owners can often benefit simply by gaining the input of somebody with an outside perspective.

Those attending will also be able to gain information on funding programs and other available resources, and can learn more about writing an effective business plan, Westervelt said by way of example.

“A lot of folks start businesses without business plans. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do one, but it is an important tool,” she explained.

“This meeting is to help (business owners) with the things that they do,” Westervelt said. “We (the city) can’t help them write a business plan or get them a loan, but we can direct them to people who can.”

The expo is open to prospective business owners as well as those who have an existing enterprise.

“This is for not only existing businesses but anybody who thinks they may want to start a business now or in the future,” Westervelt stated. “We will have people there who can help business owners at whatever stage they are at. You don’t have to be an existing business owner. I think this is a great opportunity (for prospective business owners) to start with more information than they may have had available in the past.”

Representatives of the city and chamber of commerce will also be on hand and available for questions, Westervelt noted.

The overall goal of the expo is to simply empower business owners with more tools for success, she added.

“I would hope that they are given the tools and resources to help make their lives easier and their businesses more successful,” Westervelt commented. “I would hope that if they have any questions of the city or chamber that they have the opportunity to talk with them. We want them to know that we are here to help them.”

Food will be provided at the expo. Westervelt said advance registration is requested for the purpose of getting a head count for food.

Those interested in attending may register online at: bit.ly/GustineBusinessExpo.

For more information, contact Westervelt at 854-6471 or jwestervelt@cityofgustine.com.