As you likely already know, one of our partners is the US Small Business Administration, and we recently met with Eileen Joyce, the SBA’s Lead Economic Development Specialist.
Joyce received her undergraduate degree from Auburn University, going on to complete her MBA at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In fact, during her time as a graduate assistant at UTC, she managed an SBA program—the Small Business Development Center.
“It was brand new then and is completely different today,” she said of her early experiences with SBA.
She worked for Proctor & Gamble in Field Advertising, and in 1987, she moved to Charlotte from Chattanooga, TN, joining the Charlotte SBA office. Today, she is also the project officer for North Carolina’s Small Business & Technology Development Center.
During our incredibly insightful conversation with Joyce, we picked her brain for small business tips, local resources, and ways small business owners can utilize SBA’s services.
CharlotteBusinessResources.com (CBR): What are a few of the most common questions you hear from business owners in Charlotte, and how does SBA help to find solutions for these questions?
Eileen Joyce (EJ): When people call our office, they are usually looking one of three things: funding, government contracting assistance, or help with a specific problem: the 3 C’S – Capital, Contracting and Counseling. SBA is focused on these three areas. First, we work with many lenders around the country to provide government guaranteed loans. Second, our contracting initiatives help business owners learn how to sell their product or service to the federal government. And third, we’ve created free counseling services to help business owners grow and succeed. Our resource partners – SBTDC, SCORE, the Women’s Business Centers and Veteran Business Outreach Centers – provide free, confidential counseling. They can also assist business owners find the capital they need or help explain government contracting procedures.
CBR: What do you perceive to be the greatest challenge facing small business owners? How can SBA alleviate this challenge?
EJ: The challenge facing many business owners is not taking the time to work ON their business, rather than just IN their business. By taking advantage of all the assistance available to them, they can learn how to grow their business, hire more employees, open new locations, expand into new markets, etc. SBA has worked to make our programs more accessible by offering online counseling, webinars, online blogs, links to local contacts, and local resource partners for one-on-one counseling.
CBR: What local resources do you think small businesses should leverage more?
EJ: Small business owners need to utilize help from multiple resources. We have many talented and skilled counselors in the Charlotte area. A business owner may think he just needs to increase sales to be successful, when in fact he may need to find a new supplier, analyze workflow, understand the financials better, etc. Most of the Charlotte partners are well connected, know each other, work with each other, and routinely provide referrals. And they are all part of www.CharlotteBusinessResources.com.
CBR: Tell us more about the learning center.
EJ: SBA’s Learning Center is available through www.sba.gov. Click on the Learning Center tab toward the top of the screen in the middle. SBA’s website has information on all of our programs. Through the Learning Center, you’ll find over 50 courses you can take at your leisure to help grow your business. Additionally, you can access blogs, videos and webinar events highlighted on the home page.
CBR: How does SBA make loans?
EJ: SBA guarantees loans through lenders. Your lender will decide if he or she needs an SBA Guaranty on the loan in order to approve financing for you. SBA has several loan programs including Express and Veteran Advantage. Over 850 loans were guaranteed in North Carolina in Fiscal Year 2014 for approximately $450 million.
CBR: Name one thing about SBA that people might not know.
EJ: Many large businesses today got their start using SBA programs – success stories include Ben & Jerry’s, Federal Express, Crate & Barrel, Winnebago, Calloway Golf, and Harley-Davidson, to name a few.
CBR: What is the best way for a small business to contact the SBA and use it resources?
EJ: The easiest way to learn about SBA is through our website at www.sba.gov. For North Carolina specific information on our resource partners, go to www.sba.gov/nc. Also, you can reach me at 704-344-6787.
CBR: From your perspective, what is the single most important piece of advice you can offer to small business owners?
EJ: Business owners should ask for assistance early and often. There are many fabulous folks in the Charlotte area that dedicate their time and resources to helping business owners become successful. Take advantage of them!
CBR: Is there anything we didn’t discuss?
EJ: Yes, grants. There is a misconception that the federal government has grants to start or expand a business. SBA does not have grants for this purpose. SBA guarantees loans through lenders. Lenders will need to see a business plan, evidence of financial injection from the business owner, experience in the industry, and a good credit score.
Thank you to Eileen Joyce for sharing such great information with us. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @CBRBiz for more updates from the SBA, local events, and resources to help your business.