CRA and SBDC: Partners with a Common Goal
Chances are that if you own a small business, work for a small business, or are thinking of starting a small business, you’ve reached out to the Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency for help. While the Delray Beach CRA provides assistance with grants, procedures and beautification opportunities, they can’t do it all, which is where the Small Business Development Center comes in.
Started in 1977, the SBDC was launched to provide small businesses with consulting that they could otherwise not afford. They became a partner with the Delray Beach CRA in 2015 when it was determined that a City with 92% small businesses called for an investment of no-cost consulting services. This partnership has allowed the SBDC to have a consultant embedded in the CRA District with their focus on assisting the CRA in meeting the business needs of pre-venture, emerging and established businesses on a priority basis. Considering there was a 63% growth in Delray Beach businesses served by the SBDC this past fiscal year (2019 to 2020), the team has a huge job on their hands!
Businesses in the CRA district can access the assigned consultant at any time, once registered, for consultation. Programs are designed based on the specific needs of the local CRA business community, and the consultant integrates the services of the local economic partners into their counsel to the business owner. In partnership with the local economic partners, the assigned consultant updates the business owners on county, state, and federal business assistance programs as well. Our local liaison and small business helper extraordinaire is Jacqueline Ramirez, consultant for market growth for Florida SBDC at Florida Atlantic University.
“I had worked with, and in, large organizations for my entire career and when I connected with the SBDC I found their mission very compelling,” said Ramirez, who joined the SBDC team in 2015 as a certified consultant for business growth. “Larger organizations can afford access to the latest consulting talent, approaches, programs and research. All of which can make a significant difference on the viability of a small business.”
The Florida SBDC Network is the only statewide provider of entrepreneurial services, and includes two of the most experienced members of PTAC (procurement technical assistance contractors) in the country. Each of the 20 members on the SBDC team has a specialty, including capital access, marketing, social media, strategic planning, and more. Ramirez’s specialty is organizational design and strategy, including executive coaching and behavioral analysis.
“When I was given the opportunity to work with the small businesses in Delray, I witnessed the impact their success had on the community. Helping a business owner is a privilege – it takes real strength and fortitude to manage such risk,” said Ramirez, who’s rule for Delray Beach is to connect our small businesses with all of [the SBDC] services, as needed.
According to the CRA plan, economic development is one of seven overall needs identified area-wide, so the partnership with the SBDC is an appropriate response to the CRA’s strategy of growing and creating more sustainable small businesses and entrepreneurial firms, or “growing our own.” According to Ramirez, most startups begin to falter by year three, and only half make it to year five. Since businesses need different types of assistance at each stage of the business life cycle, the SBDC and the CRA are ensuring that businesses have access beyond “startup” assistance, including expansion capital and disaster recovery services, the latter of which came in handy during the pandemic of 2020.
“For many businesses in Delray Beach it’s back to basics. Owners are looking for guidance in building a more resilient business. Many are pivoting to online if their business model can benefit from that approach or reimagining their model all together,” Ramirez said. “We added several services like business valuation, CPA support, marketing planning and sales seminars for clients to access. And we will continue to invest time in tracking funding availability through federal, state, or local programs to keep businesses open during this slow economy. The SBDC team is now available virtually – as opposed to requiring the client to come into our offices.”
She and her team have helped business owners discuss strategies for personally managing through the shutdown, how to retain employees, manage cash flow and rework marketing strategies, and were able to positively impact several businesses, including a building supplier, three non-profit organizations, a local restaurant, among others. The SBDC team even offered assistance with PPP forgiveness, government contractions, referral to grant funding sources, capital access for operating expenses, and more.
Since the partnership began, they have delivered services to almost 400 clients in Delray, and have no signs of slowing down now. If you or your small business needs assistance, you can reach out to SBDC at FAU or visit the SBDC local office at the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce, 140 N.E. First St.