The University of Southern Mississippi’s Small Business Development Center, or SBDC, is best explained by its motto: “Transforming Mississippi One Small Business at a Time”.
Located in the Trent Lott National Center, the SBDC is a national organization with over a thousand centers available across the country. As the USM SBDC’s official website explains, “The USM SBDC is a partnership program with the U.S. Small Business Administration that provides services in the form of small business one-on-one no charge confidential counseling and college-level business development workshops.”
The center, which began operations in March 2015, offers free business and entrepreneurship guidance to anyone in the Pine Belt that is looking to start or enhance their business or product. Some of the services offered at the center include, but are not limited, to how to start a business, how to create a business plan and how to obtain finances. The center is also fully staffed with counselors that are thoroughly vetted to provide the best services to clients.
“Our foundational philosophy, our structure and our mission is to help people in the state of Mississippi with their business ideas and with their businesses become better at what they do,” said Don Calcote, a certified Counselor at the SBDC.
The SBDC serves any and everyone it can, including students, professors and members of the community.
Rita Mitchell, a Certified Counselor at the SBDC, is determined to help everyone she can. She can work with anyone “[from] young entrepreneur to student entrepreneur to anyone in our region who needs help starting, […] improving, redeveloping, or saving their business.”
Even though the center has been around for six years, the recent COVID-19 pandemic helped the SBDC considerably expand its clientele. When the center began operations in 2015, it had around 95 clients. This number has steadily grown over the years, and now, thanks in part to the pandemic, the center has reached nearly 1,000 clients.
The USM SBDC had its work cut out for it when COVID-19 first went big. When businesses suddenly had to close for several months due to stay-at-home orders, many business owners were unsure and afraid of what was to come. The SBDC helped reassure a lot of people’s worries, and offered ways to keep safe and work at the same time.
However, not everything has been easy for SBDC because of COVID-19. To maintain social distancing, SBDC counselors and administrators had to reconstruct how they would continue helping their current and potential clients. This meant counselors figuring out how to work remotely at home and implementing virtual workshops.
Though the changes have been difficult, they have worked. The SBDC now offers several types of virtual workshops for anyone who needs assistance. The topics that have been discussed during the workshops include, but are not limited to: “How to develop a business plan”, “Financial Strength in a Post-Covid climate”, “Reach Customers Online with Google” and “Use YouTube to grow your business”.
Workshop availability varies depending on topic. Some are ‘On-demand’ workshops, which means they can be repeated or taken several times. However, some of the workshops offered in April and May are only offered once for this term, so it’s first come, first serve. If you would like to check out a full list of the workshops by the Small Business Development Center, please go to https://clients.mssbdc.org/events.aspx.