The Arkansas Small Business Association is there to help Fort Smith area business, or at least the small ones, get started and continue to flourish. David Moody, deputy director of the SBA, spoke at the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce’s First Friday Breakfast on Aug. 2, giving small business owners a crash course on how the government agency can help.
To best serve small businesses, the SBA has to be agile and adaptive, Moody said, noting the agency can help as a guarantor of loans and through counseling, advocacy and disaster assistance among other things.
Following the historic flooding of the Arkansas River in May, the SBA has helped with almost $10 million in disaster relief loans for individuals who suffered flood damaged to the their homes and to small business damaged or impacted by the flooding, Moody said.
But the SBA does much more than just offer loans. The SBA offers business counseling and training through Small Business Development Centers, the SCORE network, Women’s Business Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center, U.S. Export Assistance Centers and Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center. The closest small business development center for Fort Smith business owners are in Fayetteville and at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Moody said.
For businesses hoping to capitalize on government contracts, the Arkansas Procurement Technical Assistance Center can help owners traverse the complicated maze of red tape and procedures, he said.
“It’s not easy to do, but we can help you. We will hold your hand through the entire process,” Moody said “And remember, the government needs and buys everything from toilet paper to tanks.”
Moody also said when it comes to export assistance, it is important to note that a business is considered an export business if the product they produce is sold to a company who then uses it in a product exported to another country. The product the small business produces does not necessarily have to be exported as is.
The SBA works with small business at all levels from the beginning when a person has an idea they want to see brought to fruition to the successful company poised for growth, Moody said.
In the first stage – ideas, startups and early stage companies – the SBA helps with idea targeting, general market research, licensing, location, website development, marketing basics and more. The midlevel companies that have consistent revenue, structure and process, benefit from services such as target customer refinement, strategic marketing plans, sales strategies, financial management and leadership development.
“Then there are the business experience extreme growth quickly,” Moody said. “That’s great. But it presents its own set of problems.”
For the successful business, the SBA offers help in market expansion, I.T. strategic planning, capital access, I.T. financial strategy and leadership development.
“Every size company needs some sort of help, and there are service providers we can connect you with that can help. You are surrounded by help. The challenge is that we are very bad a marketing, so a lot of people don’t know about us. You have to reach out us, but once you do, once you engage us, you are surrounded by a strong network here to help you,” Moody said. “We will do our very best to make your business a success. We want to see you succeed.”
Melissa Vitale, owner of True Grit Running Co. in Fort Smith, is a small business owner who hopes to utilize SBA services in the future. True Grit opened July 2016 and soon had outgrown its first location soon. The running store is now located at 6808 Rogers Ave.
“I didn’t use them when I was starting. I didn’t know about them,” Vitale said. “We are one of those companies that grew very quickly, and we have challenges. I would really like to look into their services for financial management and marketing strategies.”