A few students and a gaggle of innovators spent Cinco de Mayo in Corwin Pavilion at the Small Business Success Forum, which featured local politicians and business owners.

Hosted by the Small Business Entrepreneurship Center, a Santa Barbara non-profit, the free event included workshops, panels and exhibitions of local businesses to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, attendees listened to a panel including Congresswoman Lois Capps, General Sales Manager of Cumulus Broadcasting Melonie Risher, and a keynote presentation by John Dilts, the founder of Maverick Angels, an entrepreneurial investment company.

Leading the panelists was Master of Ceremonies Larry Crandell, a well-known fundraiser who has been dubbed “Mr. Santa Barbara.” Crandell wrote Silver Tongue: Secrets of Mr. Santa Barbara, released last year.

Alan Tratner, host and director of the Small Business Entrepreneurship, said he decided to create the forum to advance and celebrate entrepreneurship in the area. He said he hoped to give anyone interested in starting or expanding a business an introduction to everything they would need to know, from the Internal Revenue Service to venture capital.

“The world has changed,” Tratner said. “People are not going to work through corporations anymore. There is an opportunity for people who are innovative and creative to hold their own destinies in their hand.”

Tratner stressed the importance of self-employment and touted statistical trends from the U.S. Department of Commerce which showed that about 47 percent of Americans will be self-employed by 2015.

“One in every 10 Americans starts a new enterprise,” Tratner said. “I think everyone should consider [starting a business]. Having an enterprise means financial security and opportunity.”

Nine UCSB student interns worked seven months to put the forum together, Tratner said. Adam Hewitt, a fourth-year communication major and the intern in charge of media relations, said he and the other interns sent announcements and fliers to various corporations inviting them to the forum. He said anyone willing to sponsor the event was welcome.

Dr. Candice Constantine, a program specialist and representative of Santa Barbara County Project Clean Water, said her company saw one of those fliers at the Earth Day festival in downtown Santa Barbara and decided set up an exhibit. Constantine, whose company provides anti-pollution law information to businesses, said the forum is a valuable resource for anyone considering a business venture.

“For anyone interested in starting a small business, this is a good opportunity to let them know the laws before they get started,” Constantine said.

For people interested in brainstorming ideas for businesses, Tratner said there is an open workshop once a month at the Santa Barbara Public Library. In addition, Tratner said the Service Corps of Retired Executives office in Santa Barbara offers free counseling services to small businesses.

The forum has been held twice at UCSB as well as in Santa Maria and Lompoc, Tratner said. Next year, he said he expects the forum to take place at Vandenberg Air Force Base.