2022 NEA Women in Business: Laura Miller

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 470 views 

Laura Miller
Director
Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center at Arkansas State University
Residence Jonesboro
Education Bachelor’s degree in business administration, University of Missouri; master’s degree in business administration, Pittsburg State University; certified business advisor; certified global business professional

What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career so far?

There have been, and hopefully will continue to be, many fulfilling moments! I really have one of the best jobs because I get to go to work each day and help entrepreneurs and small business owners fulfill their dreams. Their accomplishments like having a grand opening, hiring their first employee, obtaining financing, expanding to new markets, securing government contracts, etc. are exciting milestones. I can live vicariously through their success (I’m a pretty risk averse person).

What character traits do you feel have benefited you in your success?

Like many people, I’m detail-oriented. Often entrepreneurs are creative types and look at the big picture. That’s one of their strengths. But being able to help them focus on the details so they can complete the task at hand is critical. For example, helping them prepare a written business plan and monthly financial projections based on facts and not guesses pulled from the air can be a challenge.

What was your dream job and why?

In college, I thought I wanted to work in banking/finance until I took my first finance class. Trying to memorize all of those ratios changed my mind! I really lucked into this career. While living in Pittsburg, a business consultant position for the SBDC was advertised in the newspaper. I applied and got an interview. Then I pulled out some of my old textbooks and brushed up on things I had forgotten since graduating.

When we relocated to Jonesboro four years later, a training coordinator position for the ASU Center was advertised so I applied. I am still here 22 years later, so I’ll consider this my dream job.

I have the opportunity to go to work each day and help entrepreneurs and small business owners fulfill their dreams. I am amazed by the creativity and perseverance of entrepreneurs in NEA. I have had a lot of “I wish I had thought of that” moments. Also, I have great co-workers and supportive bosses.

How do you spend your time away from work? What are your hobbies?

My No. 1 favorite activity is spending time with my grandchildren. I notice and appreciate so many things that I didn’t when my boys were young. I am also re-learning golf. My goal is to get to the point where I want to keep score. My husband and I own two small businesses so helping out with those as needed.

Can you share how COVID impacted your business or organization?

Our center was busier during COVID than we’ve ever been. We were a point of contact for small businesses trying to survive. We had to stay knowledgeable about the COVID relief programs and funding opportunities. And those programs were changing daily. On top of that, we were preparing to kick off our first Smart Growth Accelerator and had to take our training events online. Zoom became our way of meeting with clients in our ten-county area since we couldn’t travel. There are only three of us in our center. We had a new staff person that hired on, trained, and started consulting before she ever saw our offices.

If you have a bucket list, what are the top three things on it?

I’d like to learn to be a better cook. I can follow a recipe, but I’d like to learn how to be a creative cook. Travel: A trip to Italy is at the top of my list. Learn to not overthink and be more spontaneous.

What’s your favorite app at the moment?

I’m not sure it is my favorite, but it is the most used app: Facebook. I enjoy following my clients so that I can know what is going on in their businesses. And of course, keep up with friends and family.

What advice would you give young women who are at the beginning of their careers?

Keep searching for the career you love. Sometimes it takes years to realize that it is your calling.