The economy is still difficult, but according to the Poughkeepsie Journal, it's still possible to take advantage of a good franchise opportunity.

The Hudson Valley Entrepreneurial Conference and Expo was held over the weekend at Dutchess Community College, the paper reports, and the theme was franchising.

Small Business Administration district director Pravina Raghavan was the event's keynote speaker. Addressing a crowd of about 50, Raghavan said the agency can provide financial assistance, business training and guaranteed bank loans, all free of charge.

Also at the conference was Nancy Kappler-Foster, business counselor for SCORE - a national small business counseling nonprofit partnered with the SBA.

"The majority of our clients want to start a business or are exploring starting a business," she told the paper. Her advice is to take "one step back from the emotion of starting a business" in order to make sure things go smoothly.

Between April 19 and 23, SCORE is recognizing National Volunteer Week by honoring volunteer counselors who help small businesses start and grow. The organization's volunteers donate more than 1 million hours each year to help entrepreneurs, SCORE CEO Ken Yancey said.

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