As Noble Studios social media strategist Lindsay Alford began instructing a room full of small-business owners and entrepreneurs on the many uses of Twitter, a woman tentatively raised her hand.
"Excuse me," she said softly, "What's a hashtag?"
Welcome to the 21st century, small-business owners. Experts are here to help.
Nevada's Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, a statewide nonprofit organization run by volunteers, gathered local exhibitors and panelists Friday at South Point for its fifth-annual Entrepreneur Expo. The expo is a guide for small-business owners learning how to start and build a company.
Part of building a company, the experts agreed, is learning how to use free or inexpensive resources, including Twitter. Hence, the hashtags.
Educational seminars covered the gamut of small-business operations, from finding financing and buying insurance to hiring independent contractors and using social media. Small-business owners wear many hats, said NCET President and Chief Executive Officer Dave Archer, and they want to know how to go it alone.
"If you're a small business, you're doing HR in the morning, IT at lunch and accounting in the afternoon," Archer said.
The expo's 70 exhibitors and seven seminars aimed to "paint a pretty broad brush" for the diverse group of 700 attendees.
Technology was a recurring theme, particularly as it pertains to marketing.
"We used to question whether a business needed a website. We don't question that anymore," said Mike Bindrup, an adviser for the Nevada Small Business Development Center. Bindrup sat on a panel of law, insurance, marketing and accounting experts in a session on successful business tips.
For entrepreneurs who lack Internet savvy, Bindrup recommended a free resource: YouTube.
"You need to consult the oracle. Go to Youtube," he said.
YouTube has a wealth of information (and funny cat videos), but for some information, it's best to consult an expert.
Sisters Faith and Vivian Palmer attended the expo with their mother to learn how to start a business in Nevada. Faith owned an antiques and collectibles company in Orange County, Calif., and the trio plans to relaunch the venture in Las Vegas. But first, they need to learn about business licenses and tax requirements.
"It's a whole different ballgame," Faith said, comparing Orange County standards with Southern Nevada.
"You know it will be different to live here, but things in general are stricter than I thought," Vivian said .
The newcomers picked up important information at the expo: They didn't realize the Las Vegas Valley consists of four jurisdictions -- Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County -- and each requires its own business license.
Dan Ollman isn't a small-business owner, but his clients are. Ollman, funding department manager for Boss Business Services, works with companies to access capital, which is why he attended the expo's session on small-business financing.
"I wanted to see what was available," Ollman said. "I got exactly what I came here for."
Contact reporter Caitlin McGarry at email@example.com or 702-387-5273.