November 25, 2004
IBID Aids Small North Dakota Businesses, Entrepreneurs
Starting a business can be as slow as molasses in January.
But not for Tublicks, a Wyndmere, N.D., company that manufactures and sells low-moisture cooked molasses lick blocks for livestock.
When Jeff Stewart and his partners – wife Leta and son Josh - decided to start Tublicks, he called the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s Institute for Business and Industry Development, or IBID.
Institute specialists helped the Stewarts develop a business plan and put them in touch with a financial adviser. The adviser helped them find financing, including a Small Business Administration loan. The process took only about three months.
Tublicks makes feed blocks for cattle, horses, sheep, elk and buffalo, using all North Dakota products, out of a former edible bean plant. The company also does private labeling – manufacturing products for other companies and putting those companies’ retail labels on the products. It has been in business about a year. Jeff Stewart estimates the company will be ready to expand in two years.
He has this advice for the NDSU Extension Service: “Tell them never to get rid of IBID. It’s an invaluable resource to this community and this state. It’ll save people so much time and so much red tape.”
IBID, in business since 1989, works with small companies interested in expanding, adapting new technologies or adding new product lines, and entrepreneurs with an idea for a new product or service. IBID staff connect them with experts who can help them solve problems that include inventory control, quality assurance, plant layout, staffing, training, material handling, product design and marketing.
“We feel we’re the front door to businesses looking for help,” said Reuben Tschritter, an IBID specialist and mechanical engineer who used to manage technical projects for IBM. “Many of these companies don’t have any engineering support.”
IBID Director Kathleen Tweeten said the institute’s strength is its relationship with colleges at NDSU, particularly the College of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Natural Resources, College of Business and College of Engineering. IBID specialists direct clients to faculty with the knowledge and expertise to help solve problems and find groups of students to tackle a client’s problem as a class project. IBID specialists also refer clients to people and agencies elsewhere in North Dakota and across the country.
Businesses aren’t the only ones benefiting from IBID’s assistance. Institute staff provide students with work experience by placing them with North Dakota companies through a salary cost-sharing program.
Tschritter said that when a potential business client contacts IBID, a specialist typically visits the company to do a free assessment of its needs. The specialist then may refer the business to the appropriate experts or arrange for company personnel to participate in seminars or training assessments. If a business needs more help, the specialist often will make a second visit, then develop a proposal outlining the services IBID will provide and a maximum cost for those services.
Once the business agrees to the proposal and signs a contract, the specialist will manage the project from start to finish, coordinating the efforts of IBID staff and outside experts and periodically updating the client on the project’s status.
When people come up with an idea for a new product or service, IBID staff help them research whether something similar already exists. IBID also directs them to experts who can help them design, patent and market their invention.
“One thing that really surprises me is how inventive the people are in this state,” Tschritter said.
For more information about IBID, visit its Web site, www.ndsu.nodak.edu/ibid. For technical assistance from IBID, contact your local Extension Service office or the IBID office in Bismarck at (701) 328-9718.