ANTIOCH -- Mary Thomas wants to start her own business handling legal documentation for small uncontested items, but she is hesitant.
The Bay Point woman has 25 years' experience in various legal and financial capacities and a business plan in place but fears failure. Instead, she has worked various temporary jobs since being laid off.
After attending a small-business symposium in Antioch on Wednesday, however, Thomas feels more hopeful about her chances at success.
"Now I just have to stop sitting on the fence and do it," she said.
Scores of current and potential small-business owners, along with East Bay lenders and business advisers, attended the event at the Antioch Community Center, hosted by the East Bay Economic Development Alliance.
Attendees took the chance to network with professionals and fellow entrepreneurs, get tips about available financing and loans and how to stay profitable.
The number of mom-and-pop businesses in the state and region continues to grow. According to a 2011 report by the economic development alliance, nearly 70 percent of jobs in the region are created by businesses employing fewer than 100 people and 44 percent have fewer than 25 employees.
More people are willing to take risks than before as the economy has bottomed out and is showing signs of improvement, said Karen Engel, the alliance's director.
The goal of the symposium is to make sure that small businesses are able
"There are so many funding sources out there that folks don't know exist," he said.
Ohlrich said one tip that came from the meeting is the need to make networking resources or tutorial resources more readily available.
Wednesday's event featured a lengthy group session where business owners were divided based on if they were startups, young businesses, growth businesses or mature businesses.
Some owners in the startup group did not have a business plan in place, which can lead to the company foundering before it starts, said George Carter of the Contra Costa Workforce Development Board.
The information came in handy, said Antioch resident Christopher Pilot, an aspiring security and investigations small-business owner.
Antioch small-business owner Mitchell Hardin said the financial information was helpful, though he wished that some actual owners with "boots on the ground" would have part of the presentation.
"It helps to hear from those that understand the cash flow and have hands-on experience as well," Hardin said.
There are three other East Bay symposiums planned this year; July 31 in Berkeley, Sept. 18 in Danville and Nov. 8 in Fremont. For more information, visit http://ebsmall business.com.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.