S8. Rowing Together: Community Colleges and Small Business

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1 Tool Summary This tool was created by the VIN for community college deans and key staff who will implement the virtual incubator on a day-to-day basis. It covers one of the most common, and potentially the most beneficial, partners in the virtual incubation space: the local Small Business Development Center. SBDCs Defined The nation s 63 Small Business (SBDCs), funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, constitute the largest economic development program in the United States. There is one Lead SBDC in every state, U.S. territory the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, with the exception of Texas, which has four, and California, which has six. Each SBDC manages a network of service or regional centers, as well satellite offices, for a total of more than 1,100 SBDC service locations nationwide. The SBDCs service individuals who are looking to start a business, business start-ups, and established businesses. Their primary services include business education workshops/seminars and one-on-one business counseling. SBDC services cover a wide variety business topics, primarily focused on how to start new businesses and grow existing businesses to create jobs for the community. Topics include: Access to Capital/Loan-packaging Assistance Accounting/Quick Book Basics Business Expansion Business Incorporation Business Sales & Marketing Cash Flow Contracting and Procurement E-Marketing Export/Import Assistance Financing Government Certification and Contracts How to Write a Business Plan Human Resources Legal Issues New Product Launches Payroll and Tax Information Permits and Licensing Information Start-up Advice Strategic Planning/Effective Management Technology Website Development PAGE 1

2 Most Lead SBDCs are hosted by four-year colleges, while some are hosted by community colleges and a few are located at state agencies or economic development corporations. A lead center is responsible for administering and managing the SBDC program and delivering services within its state or region. This includes establishing service centers at universities, community colleges, economic development organizations, and other partner sites to deliver services to the local community. These service centers often are funded by and maintain a subcontracting relationship with the lead center. The SBDC program is governed by the Small Business Act, and requirements in pertinent U.S. Codes and the Code of Federal Regulations. Congress appropriates SBDC funding annually in a line item within the SBA budget. In 2011, SBDC funding totaled $113 million. The amount of funding received by each lead center is based on an SBA formula determined by population and other factors. The SBA Office of Small Business (OSBDC), under the Office of Entrepreneurial Development, oversees and manages the SBDC. For more information about the SBDC program and to find a local SBDC office, visit the website for the Association of the Small Business (ASBDC), a trade association representing the 63 Lead SBDCs, at Additional information about the SBDC program can be found on the SBA website at SBDC and Community College Relationships Across the country, the relationships between community colleges and local SBDCs varies widely. Their partnerships take on different forms depending on the region, community, and where the lead center is hosted within a state. The relationship between a community college and its local SBDC may range from symbotic to non-existant, and sometime may even be adversarial. Many SBDCs are hosted by community colleges. For example, Long Beach City College houses a Lead SBDC and an SBDC service center, and also manages seven other service centers and specialty programs within its network of SBDCs. Other community colleges with a similar structure include Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore.; Maricopa County Community College in Tempe, Ariz.; Santa Fe Community College in Santa Fe, N.M., to name a few. There are numerous reasons for community colleges to host or partner with the SBDC: Obtaining dedicated funding to provide comprehensive business assistance to small businesses in the community Enhancing and expanding a college s business assistance and incubation programs Access to a national network of resources to improve local small business resources Implementing a structured program focused on results and economic impact to the community served Ability to provide services to clients free of charge (required by the SBDC program) Enhanced credibility of the college s business programs and services PAGE 2

3 Challenges With SBDC-Community College Relationships and Partnerships For a variety of reasons, SBDCs and community colleges have complex relationships with varying levels of cooperation. These reasons include: Perceived Competition. If the SBDC and community college do not have a relationship or partnership, there may be a perception of competition between the programs within the community. Community members may think the programs are fighting for the same clients in order to produce and deliver results. Poor Coordination. If the SBDC and community college do not coordinate their services, the community may become confused and have the impression that they are offering duplicative services. The VIN firmly believes that the more available services, the better. There is too much work to be done to limit the opportunities and service options for an entrepreneur. Inadequate Funding. Community colleges may not have the matching funds required to access federal funds, even if they are interested in hosting an SBDC to deliver services. Lead SBDC Resistance. Lead SBDCs may choose to contract only with four-year universities, excluding community colleges from the mix of service delivery options. Some community colleges also have found that SBDCs do not reciprocate their client referrals. SBDC Limitations. Some local SBDCs offer low-quality or limited services provided, resulting in the business community being underserved or not properly served. In addition, some SBDC services are focused on results and offer only limited assistance to start-ups. PAGE 3

4 Challenges Experienced by Business Incubator Clients The VIN asked incubator clients to elaborate on their challenges with community colleges and SBDCs. From the perspective of several local entrepreneurs, the following issues were identified. challenges of entrepreneurs with community colleges challenges of entrepreneurs with small business development centers Academic institutions tend to be more structured, both in terms of set-up and schedule, than entrepreneurs, who see themselves as action-oriented and flexible. For example, a college may not have a payment structure for providing services without a client formally enrolling in a program. Academic institutions are seen as bureaucratic, typically proposing taking more time to accomplish projects than entrepreneurs are willing to wait. For example, a college may suggest digging more deeply in a project in the next semester when an entrepreneur needs to do it immediately. Academic institutions are seen as being somewhat risk-averse, while entrepreneurs, by nature, are often risk takers. There may be challenges in reconciling their approaches to creative problem solving. SBDCs are perceived as providing episodic assistance rather than the continued guidance and mentorship over a period of time that many entrepreneurs need. The quality and types of services offered by SBDCs varies from one program to another (as is also true for business incubators). SBDCs typically provide basic business assistance rather than the specialized types of guidance some businesses need. However, some SBDCs focus on established and growing businesses. PAGE 4

5 Entrepreneurs also may be confused by the structure of SBA s additional business, which include: Women s Business Centers Almost 100 of these education centers focus on supporting women, particularly those who are economically or socially disadvantaged, who need assistance to grow a business. See: Veterans Business Outreach Centers Sixteen organizations nationwide serve as VBOCs. See: SCORE More than 11,500 volunteer business counselors advise and mentor entrepreneurs and business owners through this program. See: Suggestions for Enhancing Collaboration Between Community Colleges and SBDCs To build relationships with their local SBDCs and take full advantage of SBA resources, community colleges may use a variety of tactics. Develop services that complement and augment the SBDC services already provided to the business community. Partner with the SBDC in hosting joint events and trainings for clients and small businesses. Establish and build a relationship with the Lead SBDC in the state, and explore what it takes to become an SBDC service location or satellite office that receives federal funding to deliver business assistance services. Develop a better understanding of how the SBDC program is structured and the program requirements mandated by federal regulations. Find the SBA office serving the region and develop a relationship to access other specialty services such as the 8(a) certification, surety bonds, and access to lending institutions. Use SBA s free online National SBDC Clearinghouse, which directs visitors to information on credit, counseling, and contracts. See: Use SBA resource partners such as Women s Business Centers and SCORE counseling and training. Offer space for an SBDC to collocate with the college or to establish a satellite office to provide services to virtual incubation clients. PAGE 5

6 SBA Emerging Leaders (e200) Initiative Community colleges may refer clients to the SBA Emerging Leaders (e200) Initiative, which annually identifies 200 inner-city businesses across the country that show a high potential for growth and provides them with the network, resources, and motivation required to build a business of sustainable size and scale. Through the initiative, SBA is increasing outreach to areas historically challenged by high levels of unemployment and poverty. Bolstering entrepreneurial success in these areas will generate new jobs, attract investment, and provide a more sustainable economic base in distressed areas. The e200 Initiative enables the participating small business entrepreneurs to engage in an intensive curriculum focused on developing a winning expansion strategy for their businesses, including options for capital access and contracting. Participants also have the opportunity to work with experienced mentors, attend workshops, and develop connections with their peers, city leaders, and financial community. The initiative will run executive training series in a number of urban areas and Native American communities during the 2010 cycle. PAGE 6

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