When it comes to supporting entrepreneurs at any stage in their business journey, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has been a critical resource since 1980. Since its inception, the SBDC has grown to over 1,000 centers across the nation with its mission to offer “no-cost business consulting and low-cost training to new and existing businesses.” Since we celebrate National SBDC day on March 15, we here at SourceLink wanted to take a moment to highlight this important entrepreneurship support partner.
The goal of the SBDC has always been to provide educational resources and counseling to bolster the management of small businesses that are critical to strengthening local economies. Local SBDC centers offer free or low-cost training for entrepreneurs on topics from determining the validity of a business idea to securing funding. America’s SBDC (ASBDC), is the association that represents the nationwide network of SBDCs, and also offers cybersecurity and business protection courses.
“The SBDC provides support for entrepreneurs and business owners in all business stages from startup to expansion, as well as the acquisition of equipment, land, and buildings,” said Tony Schultz, State Director for Nebraska SBDC. “Nebraska SBDC clients also receive assistance ranging from business planning and financial projections to market analysis.”
Carmen DeHart, Regional Director of the Missouri SBDC, adds to this that the “SBDC helps entrepreneurs and business owners manifest their dreams through comprehensive, confidential, personalized business counseling, coaching and technical assistance, aided by results-oriented, decision-making tools that support successful business development and technology commercialization.”
The SBDC’s wide range of services are backed by research and implemented by experts. “The SBDC fosters entrepreneurship and innovation through proven, tested counseling; training; and connection to vetted support professionals and resources,” DeHart explained.
A key part of every Small Business Development Center is the free small business consultation services offered to aspiring business owners. Business consultants that work with SBDCs are local experts in their field, with some offering assistance in financing, technology business support and business planning. According to the 2023 ASBDC Impact brochure, SBDC consultants are rated on average 4.45 out of 5 stars, with 95% of clients recommending SBDC services to others.
Assistance from SBDC consultants can be crucial to entrepreneurs by offering outside, non-biased insight into their business idea or ongoing business growth plan, so it’s vital that SBDC consultants have the right expertise. Business consultants should be experienced in their fields, and their education and business tenure are considered when working with the SBDC.
“The minimum requirements of a Missouri SBDC consultant at UMKC is a bachelor’s degree in business, engineering, science or an equivalent combination of education and experience from which comparable knowledge and abilities can be acquired is necessary,” states DeHart. “They also need experience operating, managing, and owning a small business, experience training or consulting, or experience in market development for research-based technology or product commercialization. A minimum of five years of experience in a related field is required.”
Consultation offers a safety net to entrepreneurs who may have no sounding board or any prior business experience. According to the SBDC’s 2023 Impact Brochure, while the average American business saw an average annual sales growth of 11.1% in 2021, SBDC clients saw an average growth of 27.6%, with $10 billion in sales overall. SBDC clients also created 85,094 new jobs in 2021.
A Collaborative Approach
The SBDC’s wide network allows for connections with other local entrepreneurial support organizations, which helps bridge gaps in resources and accessibility. They work to introduce entrepreneurs to resources like local libraries for research, funding opportunities and tax credits, as well as organizations that may provide niche business support.
“SBDCs seek to partner on grants, programs, and events with a common mission to educate entrepreneurs, business owners, and workforce to realize success and further economic growth,” said DeHart. “We value partnerships that are innovative, empowering and collaborative. Our partnerships are direct or indirect, whichever is best for providing service and support to the entrepreneur, business owner and partner program.”
Some SourceLink affiliates are either run by SBDC offices or partner closely with them. A great example of this partnership is Nebraska SBDC and SourceLink Nebraska, both programs of the Nebraska Business Development Center. “The Nebraska SBDC will often co-present educational events and is an excellent resource to provide to clients,” said Schultz. “Especially for those who require direct one on one consultative assistance starting or growing their businesses.
“The Nebraska SBDC avoids being in a silo and has excellent relationships with other providers that support small businesses,” said Scott Asmus, Program Director of SourceLink Nebraska. “The program has also been a great resource in terms of referrals to SourceLink Nebraska for other specialty services from our Nebraska ecosystem partners and educational events.
The collaboration between Nebraska SBDC and Nebraska SourceLink allows for a mutually beneficial relationship and an enhanced ecosystem experience for the small business owners in their community.
“The Nebraska SBDC adds value to SourceLink Nebraska by getting entrepreneurs and business owners to the right resource at the right time,” said Asmus.
When creating equitable and sustainable entrepreneurial-focused ecosystems, your local SBDC branch is going to be a crucial partner. Collaboration with the SBDC brings vetted resources, experienced business counselors, and a partnership with a trusted organization into your network.
SourceLink is proud to partner and work alongside many SBDC regional offices as we work toward helping communities build strong and inclusive entrepreneurial-focused ecosystems. We thank the SBDC for all their efforts toward small business support and growth for more than 40 years.
We’d love to hear about your successes working with your local SBDC office. Drop us a comment at [email protected].