On July 10, 2020, New Jersey Business magazine featured the ceaseless, comprehensive efforts by the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC) network, the organization that is part of a national network which provides comprehensive assistance to small- and medium-sized firms, to help the state’s small businesses survive and even thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
Deborah K. Smarth, chief operating officer and associate state director of America’s Small Business Development Centers, New Jersey (NJSBDC), was quoted as saying that she recalls the onslaught of businesspeople coming to the organization in desperate need.
“I heard the stories of human toll,” Smarth observed. “People talking about their businesses that they started from scratch years ago, and the toll and the desperation in their voices: ‘Please help us, please help me,’ we heard it all.”
New Jersey Business wrote that the sheer number of small businesses that were seeking any sort of assistance and guidance shortly after the onset of the pandemic and the subsequent restrictions to help stem its spread was staggering.
Smarth pointed out that during a typical federal fiscal year, in this case from October 1, 2018, to September 30, 2019, NJSBDC provided 5,083 business clients with one-on-one counselling. However, she continued, in just a two-month period from March to May this past spring NJSBDC engaged 2,830 clients in one-on-one counselling, which is about 27% more clients than in the same time period last year.
Additionally, from March 1 to May 5 of this year, NJSBDC completed approximately 4,570 counselling hours, or 31% more than the average year.
“It was such an overwhelming tremendous impact on our network which is already very lean,” Smarth says.
Vincent Vicari, regional director of NJSBDC at Ramapo College of New Jersey, was quoted in the article that NJSBDC “is a place that aligns with the human touch of business. The phone calls we received were the hands of the entrepreneur reaching up and saying, ‘Pull me out of this. What is out there that I can stand on?’ [In order to reopen, these businesses must] have a succinct strategy with plans that work for them.”
Vicari added that the NJSBDC is a resource to help companies transform their business plans to be successful on the road to reopening, and as they eventually enter into a stage of resiliency.
Smarth also indicated that no one has total control over the economic outcome that will unfold in the future, but NJSBDC can help mitigate the unexpected risk for business operations through customized one-on-one counselling for each individual business, and helping businesses navigate various loan applications, such as the Economic Injury Disaster Assistance Loan or the Paycheck Protection Program, for example.
“We can give businesses all the guidance in the world, but ultimately the consumers drive the economy. Therefore the economic security of individuals is very important in driving this recovery,” Smarth said.
Here is the link to the complete original article by Jim Pytell, assistant editor, as it appeared in the July 10, 2020, edition of New Jersey Business magazine: