The Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) in Iowa and Illinois and the Quad Cities Chamber of Commerce celebrated Small Business Week by announcing the addition of new advisors to assist minority-owned businesses.
The chamber is partnering with the Illinois SBDC at Western Illinois University – Quad Cities (WIU-QC) and the Iowa SBDC at Eastern Iowa Community College (EICC) by providing funding to help hire the advisors. They will provide no-cost, confidential one-on-one personalized services to minority entrepreneurs as well as business training.
Leaders of those organizations gathered at the WIU-QC riverfront campus in Moline on Wednesday, May 4, to introduce the new advisors. They include:
- Maria Ramos, a new minority advisor for the Illinois SBDC, which operates under the umbrella of the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at WIU-QC.
- Molly Mayfield, who was hired by the Iowa SBDC at EICC.
The women are providing personalized counseling services designed to fit the needs of each individual business, the organizations said. They boast experience working with minority businesses and in Ms. Mayfield’s case, experience starting and owning one.
Mike Oberhaus, the chamber’s interim CEO and its chief strategy officer, said small businesses represent 99% of all businesses globally and 64% of all employees work for small businesses. A large and growing number of those businesses are owned by women and minorities.
Ann Friederichs, the SBDC assistant director at WIU-QC, said that in 2021 small business accounted for more than 65% of new jobs. Those businesses took up 90 million pages on Facebook – or more than 10 times the population of Chicago.
The SBDC plays an important role in helping existing businesses thrive and others to get started, Ms. Friederichs said. Last year alone – and in the middle of COVID-19 – for example, the Illinois SBDC at WIU-QC:
- Provided 1,108 advising hours.
- Advised 393 clients.
- That included 116 self-identified minority clients.
- Secured $6.5 million in debt and non-debt for small businesses.
It is her hope and the hope of the other partners that the addition of new minority business advisors will have an impact on the growth of small businesses in the Quad Cities, especially in under-served communities.
Ms. Ramos, who emigrated from Mexico, holds degrees in international studies and economic development. She worked for the Illinois SBDC at WIU-QC as a graduate student before being hired for the newly created position of business advisor in charge of minority outreach and community engagement.
“Since I came to the United States six years ago, I’ve had to face some of the same challenges” her clients have and will encounter, she said. Among them are language barriers and cultural differences, which can breed fear and mistrust.
In addition to helping minority entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, Ms. Ramos added she’s eager to “help families break the cycle of poverty.” From the podium Wednesday at the university, she also urged all who need her help to contact her at the SBDC, and repeated that message in both Spanish and English.
As an African American woman who started and grew her own small business, Ms. Mayfield also is ready to counsel women and minorities seeking to do the same.
Owning a small business was in her blood, she said. Her parents were successful small business entrepreneurs while she still was in the womb. But it took years for the CPA and WIU graduate with a master’s degree in public accounting to launch her own financial accounting services company. After a career in accounting, these days she’s as passionate about growing her own Greenflex Financial as she is about joining Iowa SBDC to help other minority and women entrepreneurs thrive.
Her goal, she said, is to help support the development and growth of underserved communities through promoting minority and women entrepreneurs.
In addition to Ms. Mayfield, the Iowa SBDC at EICC is adding two other advisors. Victor Oyhervides, the former West Liberty Chamber of Commerce director, is providing Spanish-speaking workshops and one-on-one counseling to Latino small business owners. Akshay Mishra, formerly of Project Now, who will join the SBDC on Wednesday, May 11, is a Quad Cities Venture School graduate and “budding entrepreneur.”
To connect with the new SBDC minority business advisor at WIU-QC, call 309-762-3999, extension 68042 or visit wiusbdc.org.
Those interested in connecting with the new SBDC minority business advisors at EICC should call 563-337-3401 or visit eicc.edu/sbdc.