by Misty Packer
Deb Bilbao is the business consultant at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce Women’s Business Center. She counsels start-ups, pre-startups and expanding businesses on critical areas including business planning, finance, marketing, sales, management, operations and government procurement. Although Bilbao works for the Women’s Business Center, her clientele is about 20% male. She believes anyone can be an entrepreneur and no one has to go at it alone.
Bilbao was a middle school math teacher before transitioning into a substitute teacher for East High in Salt Lake City. While at East High, she saw a posting to work in the Women’s Business Center at the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce and immediately began her career as a business consultant and has been in this career for two years. When asked what an average day for her looked like, she responded with, “I don’t have average days.” Bilbao continued by saying that no two days are the same and each day she has a combination of things to do, which includes speaking to new clients, returning clients, speaking at meetings or conferences. She happily remarked, “I get challenged every day.”
As a business consultant, Bilbao works with a diverse crowd of entrepreneurs. Her job allows her to help a successful business that’s looking to expand, or simply talk to someone about their idea. She mentioned that a vast majority of her clients work out of their homes, but she also has clients with commercial locations. Bilbao asserted that she can help anyone start a business anywhere.
Let’s say a p wants to open a business. Bilbao explains that the first thing an entrepreneur would need to do is see what free resources, such as the Department of Workforce Services or partners of the Women’s Resource Center such as Downtown Alliance or Utah Small Business Coalition, are available to them thanks to federal tax dollars. The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce is a bigger, more popular free resource as the Women’s Business Center provides free unlimited business counseling. Sometimes the Women’s Business Center will have a weekly networking or training event that are also free and fun to visit so that anyone can learn more. If there isn’t an event anytime soon, an entrepreneur can get in contact with Bilbao by going to the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce’s website and clicking the “Partners” tab. The first blue square icon that will show up is the Women’s Business Center. Through that medium, an entrepreneur will be able to get in contact with Bilbao and her entire team.
An appointment with Bilbao can be about anything. Her main focus is to point an entrepreneur in the right direction even if that involves contacting other resources such as the Department of Health or Agriculture if they want to start a food business. She can talk to an entrepreneur about renting a commercial space or what they need to do to work out of their home. She can talk about loans, restrictions and licenses. She will walk them through the process of getting a license in Utah, facilitate business planning and teach better cash flow maintenance and projections. An entrepreneur can visit Bilbao for an accountability session, a session that is basically a progress update, whenever they need to and she can help them at whatever step of the process they’re at.
Although Bilbao will do the best she can, sometimes entrepreneurs need to go in a different direction. “[Entrepreneurs] deserve to have the best assistance they can get, even if that’s not us,” she said. Bilbao emphasizes that all she wants to do is help an entrepreneur start their dream. She is very passionate about her job and how she is able to “help people start, run and grow their dreams every single day.”
“Anybody can be an entrepreneur,” Bilbao said. “Anybody can do this. But you don’t have to do it alone.”