The Hawai‘i SBDC program provides professional business consulting, research, and training to business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in order to promote growth, innovation, productivity, and management improvement in the business sector of the state of Hawai‘i.
By Alyssa Mathews.
The Hawai‘i Small Business Development Center (Hawai‘i SBDC), a statewide program that provides professional business advising and expertise to local small business entrepreneurs, has received another five years of accreditation by America’s Small Business Development Centers accreditation committee. The Hawai‘i SBDC is a partnership program between the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.
The accreditation will allow ongoing funding from the SBA to enable the Hawai‘i SBDC to continue to assist local budding entrepreneurs and businesses. The program also receives funding through the State Legislature to provide matching funds for the federal program.
“As a university hosted program, we are naturally allied with the resources of higher education, and are a conduit for the forces of innovation and creation through encouragement and mentoring in support of those with the entrepreneurial spirit,” says Cathy Wiltse, state director for the Hawai‘i SBDC. “Hawai‘i SBDC is focused on client satisfaction and assisting businesses to thrive or begin their entrepreneurial journey.”
The accreditation process assessed performance on a wide range of key indicators: leadership, planning, customers (clients), measurement, human resources, operations, and results.
The Hawai‘i SBDC program was established in 1990, and has since continued to provide professional business consulting, research, and training to business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in order to promote growth, innovation, productivity, and management improvement in the business sector of the state of Hawai‘i.
“To accomplish these objectives, we link federal, state and local resources, the educational community, and the private sector to meet the needs of Hawai‘i businesses,” says Wiltse.
In the past year alone, SBDC has served over 1,000 clients, created over 300 jobs, and started 90 businesses through providing business advising and expertise to clients.
Some of the services offered include business workshops and consultations from professional business advisors that give in-depth analysis of clients’ business plans and development. The services are open to early stage entrepreneurs as well as entrepreneurs with established businesses.
“Hawai‘i SBDC is focused on client satisfaction and assisting businesses to thrive or begin their entrepreneurial journey,” explains Wiltse. “The SBA funding establishes goals for each state based on the populations and the Hawai‘i SBDC has been able to succeed in surpassing those goals for the last eight years.”
There are five Hawai‘i SBDC locations throughout the state of Hawai‘i: one each on Maui, Kaua‘i and O‘ahu, and two on Hawai‘i Island in Hilo and Kona.
“The Hawai‘i SBDC, through the efforts of the five centers, is very involved with the communities that we serve, including county governments, chambers of commerce and other community groups,” says Wiltse.
Supporting budding entrepreneurs
An example of Hawai‘i SBDC’s involvement with the Hawai‘i Island community is the Hawai‘i Island Business Plan Competition (HIplan), a competition open to entrepreneurs of for-profit and non-profit businesses that are intending to start businesses on Hawai‘i Island. Competitors submit their business plans, give a fifteen-minute oral presentation and a two-minute elevator pitch, and winners are awarded a $25,000 cash-prize to help get the businesses in motion.
The competition is judged by local business professionals. Finalist judges also may invest in the business plans of the contestants if they so choose.
The HIplan competition encourages business planning and innovation in the local community, and is open to UH Hilo students. UH Hilo student participants who win the competition are also awarded a one-year tuition scholarship. One student winner had been an intern at the East Hawai‘i SBDC Center in Hilo. Several of the statewide centers utilize the skills of interns to assist with projects and support the efforts of the small businesses that the SBDC serves.
Hawai‘i SBDC staff also works with UH Hilo professors on projects and provides presentations to UH Hilo business classes.
These activities—HIplan, internships, and classroom instruction—connect UH Hilo students to business experiences and the local business community, helping the students gain awareness of the resources and opportunities around them.
“The Hawai‘i SBDC is strongly positioned to provide a natural bridge between classroom and application, between capability and execution,” says Wiltse.
About the author of this story: Alyssa Mathews is a freshman at UH Hilo planning to major in business with a marketing concentration. She graduated from Waiakea High School and is a UH Hilo Chancellor’s Scholar.