Photo by Evan Krape
March 15, 2022
Owning a business is a high-risk, high-reward proposition. This is especially true today as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to upend the best business plans.
“Now more than ever, businesses of all types and sizes face unprecedented economic and societal challenges that threaten their very existence,” said J. Michael Bowman, state director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Delaware. “These challenges are even more severe for small business owners and entrepreneurs from underserved communities.”
But new hope is looming for historically underserved business owners across the state as the Delaware SBDC rolls out enhanced support services with $2.5 million in US Small Business Administration funding.
The expansion is part of the Small Business Administration’s new Community Navigator pilot program, an initiative to break down barriers and improve access to government resources for small business owners, particularly veterans, women and people from rural and communities of color.
Delaware SBDC, a unit of the University of Delaware’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships, is among 51 organizations selected statewide to share a total of $100 million in funding under the pilot program. DSBDC is one of 11 organizations to receive $2.5 million in funding.
Delaware SBDC will serve as the hub and lead the Delaware Navigator Network. Collaborative partners or “spokes” involved in the project include the Delaware State Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity Bureau, the Delaware “Main Street” Network, Delaware State University, Independent Resources Inc., United Way of Delaware and the Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware Hispanic Commission.
Expanded services statewide from Claymont to Selbyville
In Delaware, small businesses make up a significant portion of the economy. Most of Delaware’s 73,000 small businesses are privately or family owned. 49% of these companies are owned by women and 52% are owned by minorities.
During the pandemic, DSBDC has helped many small businesses stay afloat. With this new funding from the Small Business Administration, Delaware SBDC and its collaborating partners can do more now and in the future.
“DSBDC’s Navigator pilot program will help level the playing field for underserved entrepreneurs in Delaware, particularly people of color, people with disabilities, and business owners in rural and low-income communities,” said John Fleming, regional administrator for the Small Business Administration in Mid- Atlantic .
The Delaware Navigator program partners plan to announce a robust lineup of program offerings this spring. The program will serve entrepreneurs from Claymont to Selbyville – with industry expertise and resources related to business creation, operations, finance, marketing and more.
Denita Henderson, DSBDC Assistant State Director and Navigator Program Director, described the partnership with trusted community-based organizations involved in the project as a real opportunity to help small business owners navigate their way and unlock key resources, such as bilingual services for those with limited English Competence.
“It is most appropriate for the state’s leading resource agencies to work together to advance a more equitable and inclusive economic landscape for Black, Latino and people with disabilities,” she said. In addition, DSBDC works with several Main Street organizations across the state to ensure these populations are provided with resources.
Meanwhile, labor shortages, supply chain issues and limited access to capital pose real problems for small business owners, according to Jordan Schulties, department head of the Delaware Division of Small Business.
“Small businesses across our state, and particularly in underserved communities, continue to face extraordinary challenges related to the pandemic,” Schulties said. “The Navigator program offers our nationwide ecosystem a unique opportunity to assess its strengths and provide collaborative solutions to help business owners address these challenges by connecting them with the resources of the Small Business Association.”
As the Delaware Navigator Network rolls out the program, small business owners are encouraged to provide input on which services would be most valuable through a short survey available here.