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USC : Center Provides Business Counseling

January 02, 1994|E.J. GONG JR.

When South-Central resident Carl Morgan decided to open a bakery this year, he sought advice from the Los Angeles Business Assistance Center. Two months into operation, his shop is selling so many peach cobblers and pecan pies that Morgan plans to open another bakery next year.

Morgan, 25, credits his success not only to the rich taste of his fresh-baked desserts, but also to the Los Angeles Business Assistance Center, a city-funded, nonprofit business counseling service run by USC's business school.

The main objectives of the assistance center, which was formed after the riots, are to help local businesses become more profitable and to create jobs.

"We try to teach people how to fish. We don't sell fish," said Jonathan Goldsmith, the center's management consultant. "For a one-time $25 fee, we look at the company's needs and figure out how to make them more profitable. For people starting up, we help them find the best way to do it."

Goldsmith said more than 150 businesses, ranging from small grocers to furniture manufacturers, have sought advice from the center at 3375 S. Hoover St.

Goldsmith's staff of 13 includes USC students, professors and industry specialists who bring an array of expertise to their mission. The first meeting is by appointment. Consultants analyze the business, then discuss ideas and options to improve its performance. The business owner and the center work together over a period of time, charting progress.

"When you open a business, it's like learning a whole different language," said Morgan, whose store, The Southern Bakery, is near Los Angeles International Airport. When he started the business, he said, he was unfamiliar with business terminology.

"Things like EBIT (earnings before interest and taxes), bank ratios and gross profit ratios were foreign to me. They helped me understand terms and get a handle on financial statements."

He added: "What people need when they're starting a business is a little guidance."

The assistance center also serves as a clearinghouse for other information. It works closely with other agencies, such as the Small Business Administration, and can often help clients with wider issues than how to run a company.

Information: (213) 743-1726.

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