Helping entrepreneurs through COVID-related challenges
For business owners trying to stay afloat during the pandemic, help with planning new strategies and finding grant and loan programs can be a life raft. The Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) offers entrepreneurs support through its Business Resiliency program.
“Business owners are dealing with both physical and emotional fatigue,” says CHERYL YOUNG, a business resiliency counselor at the center. “The SBTDC will take the time to listen to the client’s business needs and issues and work together with the client for the best resolution. Our support to our clients can be as simple as being a sounding board and providing encouragement and advice.”
The SBTDC is a business outreach program of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business. It’s among eleven regional service centers throughout the state and funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the UNC system.
“Our team consists of experienced business counselors who offer no-cost, confidential, in-depth business counseling to small and mid-sized businesses,” Young says.
The SBTDC also has a business launch program and specialty areas such as international business development, government contracting assistance, and technology commercialization, Young says.
Young has been working for the center since 2020. She formerly was a business counselor for the Small Business Development Center at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.
“Cheryl’s like my fairy godmother,” says BRANDON KORMAN, who owns several Tropical Smoothie Café franchises in Wilmington and Leland. He says Young has been instrumental since he first contacted the center in 2020, particularly with finding ways to get relief funds and how to save finances.
“It’s everything from business planning, financial modeling, cash flow analysis, helping use tools from ProfitCents,” Korman says, adding that while he is knowledgeable about funding programs, Young has informed him of opportunities he wasn’t aware of.
The SBTDC started in 1984, and its Business Resiliency program was funded through the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to provide support to businesses with COVID-related challenges.
“This is a targeted expansion of SBTDC services to meet the changing needs of businesses and to help owners navigate their business through COVID-19,” Young says.
CARES Act funding programs include Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the Paycheck Protection Program, Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, and Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
“Our efforts also include guiding businesses through the process of pivoting, adapting their business model and in some cases, scaling their business due to COVID,” Young says. “We continue to keep our clients informed of new programs and changes to any existing programs.”
Workforce issues continue to be a major concern for employers, Young says, adding that the SBTDC has worked closely with other statewide agencies to help.
Restaurants have had to change the way they do business, including mask-wearing, barriers, online ordering, and curbside pickup, Korman says.
Labor shortage, supply chain issues and inflation are big challenges now, he says.
“We are in a really bad labor crisis,” Korman says. “It’s still very tough to not only gain employees but retain them.”
“We have worked with clients on employee retention and provide suggestions for pay scale and benefit options,” Young says. “Supply chain issues can be eased with proper inventory and cash flow management. Finding alternative suppliers can help also.”
Clients also can work with the center’s International Business Development program specialists who use Trade Map to help find new sources of raw materials, products, and supplies, Young says.
“It is extremely important and vital that help to businesses like this remain here, remain free,” Korman says of the SBTDC. “It’s so important to get the word out.”
To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to dariaphoto.com
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