City program Geared Toward Micro-enterprises

Austin Business Journal by Jacob Dirr, Contributing Writer

Date: Friday, June 3, 2011, 7:13am CDT – Last Modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 2:03pm CDT

Renia Harris knew plenty about hair, having owned a salon in North Austin for almost three decades, when she opened HCS Salon at the Mueller airport redevelopment.

Online marketing, not so much.

Harris wanted to generate clients for her new salon, one of the first businesses at Mueller near Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, but she had little idea where to begin.

“The biggest technical challenge was getting up on Google clicks. I had only learned how to turn on and off a computer,” she said. “I have been in business so long, it had been word of mouth and the Yellow Pages. It was an eye-opener for me.”

Fortunately for Harris, she was able to turn to the city of Austin’s Micro-enterprise Technical Assistance Program. She and other very small business owners have used the program to learn about

creating social media

marketing and to help themselves get traction with Google search results.

The program is funded through federal

money, given to the city, which in turn contracts with Businesses Invest In Growth Inc., known as BiGAUSTIN, a local nonprofit business assistance center.

With a $200,000 budget, the program aims to help more than 30 micro-enterprises each year. A micro enterprise is a business with five or fewer employees, including the owner, or an individual actively working toward developing a business.

One of the program’s activities is helping new companies use video marketing and post items on sites such as YouTube, said Nadia Baig, finance officer at BiGAUSTIN. It also puts businesses in touch with financing solutions for working capital and upgrades.

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