Changing of the Guard: An Advocate for Small Business Retires after 29 Years

Brenda B. Hopper, who has led America’s Small Business Development Center’s – New Jersey (NJSBDC) from its headquarters at Rutgers Business School since 1991, will retire effective March 31.

Hopper, who received her undergraduate degree and MBA from Rutgers, oversaw training and lobbying efforts that assisted small business owners throughout the state. She also was a visible and supportive member of the Rutgers Business School community.

Leon Fraser, an assistant professor of professional practice on the management and global business faculty and managing director of Rutgers Business School’s Executive Education Program, will step in as interim chief executive officer and state director of the New Jersey SBDC effective April 1.

The NJSBDC network provides management and technical assistance and advocates for small businesses and entrepreneurs across the state. It is primarily funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and supported by New Jersey’s Business Action Center.

“I am proud to say that I led a team that has helped thousands of successful business owners, infusing billions of dollars into NJ’s economy,” Hopper said. “I’ve learned and shared a lot along the way.”

“Know that I am ‘Rutgers Red’ to the core and will never be too far away from my Rutgers family,” she said. “Thanks for the camaraderie and insights, smiles, laughter and tears. It’s been quite a ride!”

Fraser will step into the leadership position at a daunting time for the state’s small business community.

 

Leon Fraser at Rutgers Business School's Business Community Engagement Symposium in November.
Leon Fraser is an assistant professor of professional practice and managing director of Rutgers Business School’s Executive Education Program.

“I wish to thank Brenda for her service for the past 29 years,” he said. “At this time of leadership transition, the COVID-19 crisis presents life-threatening challenges to all New Jersey residents. It also presents many unique challenges to small businesses that have closed down, affecting owners, employees, and their customers.”

“I look forward to working with the NJSBDC regional directors who are on the front lines of providing assistance, the Small Business Administration, and the small business community,” he said.

As she steps away from her long-time role, Hopper is planning to pursue an entrepreneurial path of her own as part of the CannaBoy Treehouse business in Union.

Hopper has deep roots in Newark. She attended classes in the Newark Public School System after her family moved from North Carolina. After graduating from high school, she worked at Prudential Insurance Company before going to Rutgers University-Newark to study economics and business.

She went on to earn her MBA from the Rutgers Graduate School of Management at a time when there were few black students or women. “We had such a tight study group, that we all encouraged and helped each other,” she said in a Rutgers Business School alumni profile written in 2017.

It was during her studies as a graduate student that she first became involved with helping small business owners struggling to comeback and grow after the Newark riots.

 

-Susan Todd

Rutgers Business School, Newark & New Brunswick