PIERRE PART — Brenda Romero sat inside the LSU Business and Technology Center’s mobile classroom unit, debating how she should get her art to a larger market, outside of her Belle Rose home. There’s a lot she needed to know.
Should she use her own website, or use Facebook’s Marketplace function? How do Paypal’s transaction fees compare to those of credit and debit cards?
If you pass along those fees to customers, is it better to add it as a processing fee, or to add it on to the price of the product?
These were just a few of the issues she and her husband, Nick, discussed on Thursday with Daniel Vlosky, mobile classroom and training coordinator.
The Romeros are exactly the kind of clients he’s trying to reach.
Vlonsky spent two days in his mobile classroom parked at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church giving presentations on starting and expanding small businesses.
“We’d like to have as many people as possible, obviously,” Vlonsky said. On Thursday morning, the Romeros were the only two on board the rolling classroom he said, “but they’re motivated, they’re interested and they’re getting something out of this.”
Vlonsky sent the couple out the door with some new ideas, and with information about free counseling and other services available from partner organizations such as the Louisiana Small Business Development Centers.
“There are so many people out there who have no idea these resources are available to them,” he said.
The mobile classroom targets both underserved rural areas and areas that have been affected by hurricanes or other disasters, said Charlie D’Agostino, LBTC executive director.
The Romeros fit, on both counts.
They’re running a small business from their home. Nick collects, cleans and sands pieces of driftwood, and Brenda paints nature scenes on each.
On the business end, they’ve been learning as they go.
Brenda’s pieces hang at the Gator Gold Café, at the intersection of La. 69 and La. 70 near Pierre Part.
It’s the only place her paintings are sold, and, Brenda said, “I get a lot of customers who are oil workers, or tourists just coming through.”
Anything that keeps people away from the water — from hurricanes to high water to oil spills in the Gulf — puts a serious dent in that through-traffic, and in her business.
“We wanted to learn more about how to use Facebook and the Internet to reach more people,” Brenda said. That’s one of two seminars they attended about making use of technology in their business.
Vlonsky said the mobile classroom also serves as an on-site disaster response unit, providing wireless Internet and satellite phone services to small business owners in affected areas.
For more information about the mobile classroom, visit the organization’s website, http://www.lbtc.lsu.edu, or call (225) 578-7555.