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April 22, 2013

LSBDC at ULM helps local entrepreneurs achieve dreams

After working for a local ophthalmologist for more than 14 years, Erin Weaver decided to venture out on her own and start a children's clothing boutique. 

As a parent of two young children, Weaver said she wanted start her own business "to provide increased flexibility and spend more time with her family."

At the recommendation of a University of Louisiana at Monroe faculty member, Weaver sought the assistance of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at ULM to help turn her business dream into a reality.

In March 2012 that dream came true with the opening of Weaver's children's store, The Spotted Giraffe, located at 222 Bell Lane in West Monroe.

The Spotted Giraffe developed and captured a niche market, offering handcrafted clothing, accessories and gifts available to pre-mature infants, infants and children up to four years of age. Registries and monogramming are also available.

Virendra Chhikara (V.C.), Senior Business Consultant with LSBDC at ULM, assisted Weaver with her business plan, financial projections and market research for her business venture.

"I helped her with market research, strategies, and business start-up questions," said V.C.

"She is hard working, always on time, intelligent and very creative. She understands exactly what she needs to do to become successful."

Weaver praised Chhikara's effort and dedication to her business and reflected on her experience with the LSBDC.

"It was wonderful," she said.

"V.C.  told me what to do step-by-step and made it very easy to implement and understand. I tell everybody to call the LSBDC if they have questions about opening a small business. Since starting, I have contacted VC from time to time with questions I have."

The Spotted Giraffe uses modern advertising methods, including social media, to directly interact with its customer base.

Advertisements, announcements and photographs are posted often through those platforms.

Parents, grandparents, friends, family and even children are able to ask questions, view the current inventory and even see the upcoming merchandise at their convenience.

"I try to find products that no one else has and can't be found anywhere else," said Weaver. "This has definitely been a learning experience, and overall, it has done very well."

When asked to give advice to other small business owners, Weaver said, she would tell them "Not to give up. It is so easy to get down in the dumps when things don't go well, when you have a bad week or a bad month, but the most important thing is to try to enjoy what you're doing and try to make your customers feel welcome and be very knowledgeable about your business. That has made it easy for me."

About the LSBDC at ULM:

Over the last 10 years, through its partnership with Louisiana Economic Development  and the U.S. Small Business Administration, the has LSBDC served over 116,000 small businesses - creating nearly 9,000 new jobs, 1,400 new businesses, $671 million in capital, and generated $693 million in new state income tax revenue.

Designated and funded as the state's principal provider of small business assistance by Louisiana Economic Development, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center is the only statewide, nationally accredited program that provides business consulting to entrepreneurs at no cost.

Through a network of 10 centers, the LSBDC provides high quality one-on-one consulting, training and information resources to empower new and existing businesses.

Visit for more information.

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