Small Business Help Services Grow

Small Business Help Services Grow
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SNOW HILL – As local establishments gear up for “Small Business Saturday,” some entrepreneurs in Worcester County are seeking the help of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to launch and improve their own businesses.

Earlier this month, the SBDC expanded its hours to accommodate the growing demand for entrepreneurial assistance in Snow Hill, according to Worcester County Economic Development (WCED) Director Merry Mears.

“I am so excited about this because we thought it would be beneficial to open an office with colleagues from the SBDC so entrepreneurs in Worcester County can have access,” she said.

From January to November of this year, SBDC Business Consultant Tim Sherman spent eight hours a month helping entrepreneurs prepare and refine business plans, project future growth and apply for financing.

“The demand for assistance increased,” he said. “That is what prompted us to open another office, rather quietly.”

But SBDC’s satellite office at WCED continued to experience a high volume of clients, according to Mears, who welcomed the unplanned participation.

“I’m just encouraged by the uptick in inquires we are receiving in the office as far as starting and expanding businesses,” she said. “Our efforts within the community are proving fruitful.”

Now Sherman opens the offices once a week, essentially doubling his hours.

“Every Wednesday I go there, I see somebody, whether by appointment or by people walking in and asking for information,” he said.

Headquartered at Salisbury University’s Perdue School of Business, the regional center provides consultations for Eastern Shore residents looking to establish and expand their small businesses.

“We help people in all industries and all stages of business,” Regional Director John Hickman said. “People think it’s just for starting a business, but it is more than that.”

Residents are asked to register as a client before setting up an appointment with the center, according to Hickman. The individual then receives confidential consultation either at the office or at the individual’s place of business, depending on the client’s needs.

With the support of federal, state and local governments, the SBDC does not charge clients for its services. Hickman credits the program’s success in part due to Worcester County’s financial backing.

“Worcester County gives us the ability to provide additional services,” he said.

Once clients meet with Sherman, the businesses receive ongoing support from the SBDC, complete with follow-up meetings.

“Tim provides business plans and financial projections for those having a hard time putting it onto paper,” Mears said. “Usually, that is what’s needed for financing. I think we pushed in the last year to let people know what we are doing. A lot of our work in the past year aimed at stretching our reach and explaining to people what economic development does in Worcester County. Our role is to sit in the background and support the entrepreneurial community.”

The state’s SBDC is a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration and the University of Maryland.

The Eastern region of the state program partners with Wicomico and Worcester Counties, Salisbury University and the business school, and additional communities and colleges around the Eastern Shore.

Worcester County’s Snow Hill office is open each Wednesday from 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at WCED, according to Sherman.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call WCED at 410-632-3112 or Sherman at 410-548-4419.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.