The logos and placards emblazoned across the car doors and rear windows of vehicles owned by window cleaners, truck drivers, mortgage brokers and insurance agents spoke volumes about the commercial diversity that comprises East County.
"I'm here to find out how to get funding," said Ed Gibson, owner of American Truck School. "Trucks are very expensive, and so is everything that goes with it. I'm hoping to find out how to get some dollars."
Sponsored by the Contra Costa County Workforce Development Board, along with the cities of Antioch and Pittsburg, the free conference and workshop called Taking Your Business to the Next Level was designed to connect home-based and small businesses with the resources to help them survive and thrive.
Attendees consulted with a panel of experts in business analysis, marketing, management planning and finance, to name a few. They obtained information on funding through the Small Business Administration and other government programs. Job placement information and educational opportunities were also highlighted during the three-hour event.
Some came to the conference to soak up the wisdom and experience of others.
"I'm here to learn about the solutions to problems I don't even know I have," said Sean Wright, a local chiropractor. "But I know I must have a lot of them."
For the majority of the attendees, however, the event was an opportunity to reach out, network with one another and share a few hours with those who understand what it means to be a small business owner.
"I came here today because I have a vision," said Janee Reynolds. "I want to mentor young girls who are just coming out of the system. I want to help them lead good lives, and I have no idea how to do that. I came to learn from and be with others like me."
The path for most small business owners, said George E. Carter III, a business services representative for the Workforce Development Board, is fraught with challenges. The more information and support business owners access, he said, the more successful they will be.
"Most people don't even know who we are or what we do," said Carter. "And really, that's why we do these events. Small business owners account for nearly 80 percent of today's workforce and yet they are often missing out on services that they can, and should, utilize. Today was a great example of the small business community coming together. It was very successful."
For more information, contact the Work Force Development Board of Contra Costa County at 646-5559.