This Bergen NJ program helps small businesses

Maria Rini, a Realtor in Oradell, had always wondered how her business could improve its presence online to better connect with potential clients. 

When Bergen Community College reached out to her about the Business Resource Network being launched by the county to provide free business advice and data, one offering immediately caught her eye: help with social media.

“We have been having trouble with this for a long time,” said Rini, a broker at RE/MAX Real Estate. “We’ve had false starts with different companies. Everyone has different theories about social media and what’s the right thing to do.”

Soon after, Rini started having weekly meetings with 20-year-old BCC student Adela Mancka, a business support specialist for this new program who began helping Rini create a “sensible game plan” for social media.

“The stress that she has lifted is amazing,” Rini said. “It’s amazing in such a short period of time that she’s been able to help us turn the aircraft carrier around.”

Students from Bergen Community College have been working as business support specialists for the Bergen County Business Resource Network to support small businesses.

The idea behind the Bergen County Business Resource Network, which launched this month, evolved during the pandemic as the county brainstormed ways to help small businesses survive after it had provided funding to them through an outreach program, said Bergen County Executive James Tedesco.

“We wanted to be able to give them information that would help them make business decisions, help them look at what their competitors are doing and give them free business consulting, free data and free help, Tedesco said.

The benefits include a program called Size Up, which provides market research and business intelligence.

Size Up lets small business owners see how they compare to other businesses around them, assess how to invest their advertising dollars, and learn how to apply for grants and identify where local customers, suppliers and competitors are located.

The county partnered with BCC to train students as business support specialists, said Eric Friedman, BCC president. For the students, it is similar to a work-study program, and they are compensated for their time.

About 16 students are working as business support specialists and have helped their small businesses create new websites, track sales information, and balance the checkbook and financial aspect of the business, said Friedman.

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