You may have seen the SBDC signs on offices that recently appeared in Gilmer, Henderson, Carthage, Marshall and Jefferson. What is an SBDC? SBDC stands for Small Business Development Center, and we’re a resource partner of the Small Business Administration. There are about 1,000 SBDCs across the country that serve a very specific purpose in the local economy. Every county is served by an SBDC.

Our job is to provide consulting and advising services to entrepreneurs and small business owners in order to help local small businesses start, grow and thrive. And the best part is we provide our services at no cost to our clients. Each SBDC is funded through an SBA grant with support from our state and a local host, which in our case is the State of Texas and the University of Texas at Tyler.

The SBA is well known for its programs that incentivize banks to make small business loans by reducing the associated risks. The SBDC program is not as well known, but vitally important to entrepreneurs and small business owners who need business advice. Small business consulting firms are out there and provide important services, but at a national average of $300 an hour, their services are out of reach for most small businesses and entrepreneurs. And in rural areas of the country, these companies and their services are almost non-existent.

That’s where the SBDC comes in. We are staffed by seasoned business advisors who have been entrepreneurs and small business owners ourselves. We know what it is like to start a business and make it successful. We understand the thrill, the fear, the all-consuming obsession of small business ownership. We know the successes and the failures, the highs and the lows, the “do’s” and the “don’ts” of entrepreneurship.

We help every size small business at every stage, from the entrepreneurial start-ups, to the mom and pop shops, to established 100 employee factories. We have experience in just about every industry from food service to hospitality to manufacturing to retail to wholesale.

We help entrepreneurs step-by-step through the start-up process from guidance on writing business plans to registering their new business with the county clerk, from selecting the right legal entity to getting an Employer Identification number. We help established small businesses with financial projections and feasibility studies, from marketing plans and market research, from advertising, website development and social media campaigns.

If your business is struggling or trying to identify new markets, we can help by analyzing cash flow to identify issues, researching and identifying new markets for products and services and helping to develop turnaround strategies.

The results of working with your local SBDC advisor speak for themselves. A 2018 study showed that while the national average for year over year sales growth was 5.5 percent, the average for SBDC clients was 18 percent. That’s three times higher. Studies show that entrepreneurs and small business owners who seek expert advice from their local SBDC advisor, CPA, lawyer, or even a successful entrepreneurial friend or family member experience more successful business outcomes than their counterparts who go it alone.

Commercial lenders are some of the best partners of the SBDC. The usual first stop of the aspiring entrepreneur is their local bank for a loan to start a business. The lender will often refer them to their local SBDC to get started on a business plan, financial projections, personal financial statements and the other items that complete a lending package. Sometimes, the SBDC will have to work with the aspiring entrepreneur to repair a bad credit. Other times the lender will refer a successful small business owner to the SBDC seeking a loan to grow a business to the next level. We will help update their business plan with current market research, financial projections and cash flow analysis.

So, whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur wanting to launch a business or a successful small business owner ready to grow your business to the next level, the SBDC has the tools, resources, experience and proven ability to help. Let’s start a business, grow a business, fix a business together!

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Day Shelmire is the Director of the UT Tyler-Longview SBDC, which covers Gregg, Harrison, Marion, Panola, Rusk and Upshur Counties of East Texas. Entrepreneurs and small business owners can contact their local SBDC for advice on how to start, grow or fix their small business. Call (903) 757-5857 for an appointment with an experience business advisor.