Rural Entrepreneurship: Elevating Small Business Series
Good afternoon everyone and thank you for taking time to join us for the Small Business Administration 's elevating small business series. Today, we're celebrating rural entrepreneurship. My name is Terry Billups and I'm a senior advisor of rural affairs for SBA 's Office of field operations and it's a great privilege for me to be moderating today's web and are having worked at the SBA as an assistant district director of both Economic Development and Lender relations in Los Angeles and is a deputy director in Michigan.
I've seen first hand the importance of creating economic opportunity for small businesses. While I oversaw the delivery of SBA programs and services, which included SBA score functions of access to capital, government contract ING, technical assistance and disaster recovery in my current role is the senior advisor of Rural Affairs. I continue to work with federal partners, community leaders, lenders and small business stakeholders as they learn to understand how crucial it is. US to optimize the positive impacts that contribute to economic growth in small businesses and throughout our communities. SBA is committed to supporting the small business communities throughout our nation and that includes our rural communities who are in need of our resources. The rural small business owners that we have on our panel today exemplify resilience and ingenuity.
Like many of you across the nation, by necessity they've had to pivot to keep their doors open. Finding ways to keep their employees on role and they've shown incredible fortitude in the face of the global pandemic. In June, the SBA began a series of webinars called getting back on track with the nonprofit group Public Private Strategies Institute to provide Main Street entrepreneurs with information and resources that they needed to recover from the pandemic. This webinar. This webinar series is recorded and it can be viewed on SBA 's YouTube channel to learn more about these programs that have been previously held, you can visit WWW DOT SBA dot Gov.
Now let's turn our attention to today's elevating small business webinar. This focused on rural entrepreneurship were all as a population, is an extremely diverse group of small businesses from various geographical regions throughout the United States, in our territories and to us rural means. All of those areas that are aren't urban were all small business owners are working harder, thinking more creatively and increasing their collaboration in order to build back better given the setbacks. That everyone is experienced as a result of the pandemic. Here are a few facts that I would like to share with you about rural businesses that have been published by our SBA Office of Advocacy in twenty eighteen rural rural counties in the western part of the United States.
In crew increased by two point, four percent, the five states that had the highest number of rural growth in small businesses was New Mexico, Utah, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. Now in the South, that growth was less than one percent. And it was near zero for rural counties in the Midwest, and unfortunately it was about negative, one percent for rural counties in the northeast.
Our hope for today. After our discussion, we can provide information and tools needed for those of you who are thinking about starting new businesses in these areas or for those of you who are already in business. To be able to grow your business so that we can improve those statistics and keep our nation moving forward. One of the things that most people don't recognize that when you look at the rural small businesses and the amount of revenue, it is pretty consistent with that of there.
Urban peers forty percent of small business owners have trouble accessing capital, and that's the message that we hear from small businesses throughout the United States, whether urban or rural areas. So that's something that hopefully, after today's discussion, you'll be better suited to go out and access capital. Currently there's a sixty percent increase in the share of funding that's available for small businesses that have under ten employees that are in rural communities, and that funding is up about thirty percent. So again, our goal for today is to teach you how to access resources that help small businesses across our United States and territories help build their communities.
So let's get started. I am so pleased to be joined today by a fantastic panel. With a wealth of experience we have also at the end of our announcements. Today we will be having a. Pre recorded video message from U S representative Sanford Bishop from the Great state of Georgia, 's second Congressional District, so we'll play that.
At the end of our programming and on our panel today. I have one of Svas leaders, Amy Lee, who is the district director in Wyoming and also the acting district director or the acting regional director. I'm sorry four five states known as the Rocky Mountain region. In addition, we have another leader from the USDA, Stephanie Buzz rookie, who is the chief of staff for the USDA Rural Business Cooperative Service, and then also joining us are two of our small business leaders, Sharissa Ruby, who from Dakota Micro which is headquartered in Cayuga, North Dakota, and then Nathan Dragger, president and founder of Quantum PC Services in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. So let's jump into our discussion and we're going to start out with our two business owners and the USDA and SBA is partnered to provide programming across EU.
S and we've also partnered to provide relief as a result of the pandemic, so some of our small businesses may have already taken advantage of these resources. But in terms of what they've actually accessed, I would like to first ask Theresa what programs that she's actually tapped into. So whether it was SBA or USDA, and it could be our programs that are related to funding.
So Theresa, could you please share your experience with us? Absolutely thanks so much for having me. We utilized the PPP loan program and that was through the SBA. The assistance of the SBA and our local bank, and they made the process really easy and it was a huge help for us last year. Last year was a rough year. So Theresa, how has that helped benefited you in your business? Well, of course we were. Business was much slower last year, especially at the beginning of the year.
We're a manufacturer. We manufacture a backup cameras for like large equipment, agricultural equipment, tractors, military equipment, construction stuff like that. And it was all slow. I'll manufacturing was slow and I'm along with that. We just couldn't get some of the inventory in to actually build our products and so instead of having to layer people off, we were able to utilize. The loan to make sure to make our payroll and keep everybody employed and we were able to find enough smaller things for them to do along the way.
And a lot of prep work and keep everybody employed. And it was. It was great because we didn't have to close down or lay anybody off during that process. Thank you for sharing that sharisa.
We're going to move over and ask Nathan that same question, but as we do that for those of you who aren't familiar with what PPP is, that's SBA Paycheck protection program and you'll often hear it referred to as PPP. So if you hear PPP, it's synonymous with paycheck protection program, so Nathan. Can you please answer the same question and tell us a little bit about the programs or services that you were able to tap into as part of UM? The recovery or or the I guess the statement as we went through the pandemic. Yeah, absolutely. And my story kind of echoes. Theresa is.
I also was a recipient of a Paycheck Protection program loan. We worked with a local SBA lender here that was already. We already had a good relationship with them and that worked out really fantastic. The timing for the loan was also very clutch and critical for us. We were faced with inevitably having to downsize as customer orders were.
Flowing down and we're watching you know this trend happened and we weren't sure what the future was was holding. We were looking at potentially downsizing. You know skilled employees that have computer science degrees that are hard to hard to replace and hard to retain in the first place.
So with the with the ability with that PPP loan, we were able to move to a remote workforce and it allowed us kind of some flexibility to provide training resources for those employees to that. Frankly, we may not have been able to afford during that time, so it it. Helped us kind of get through the toughest stretch, at which point we were able to kind of rebuild our business model and focus on remote workforce, remote learning opportunities and hybrid kind of conference rooms and different things to try to, you know, help our community get through the same problems. Beyond that, I also did receive SBA award in twenty twenty from SBA, Wisconsin for the Rural small business of the Year. Here you know aside from getting the Paycheck protection program. Coming for that, we had an award ceremony last summer in like July or August and we had a lot of media attention and we had, you know, a lot of good things kind of come from that, so I just kind of wanted to bring that up even though it's not necessarily, you know, part of the funding programs and things like that.
But you know, being nominated for that was already a big deal, and eventually winning that award also helped us get through last year. That was a major boost for us. Thank you Nathan, and thank you for your leadership within your own community and for taking advantage of SBA resources. So before we move back to sharisa, one more follow-up question. So you mentioned the capital resources that you tapped into, and also the fact that you received an award from SBA. So congratulations on that. It's always a good news story.
Could you tell us a little bit about any type of technical or consulting services that you received, either as part of. Your pandemic recovery, or even in the early days of your business. Absolutely, we work closely with our local Economic Development Corporation. It's the Door County Economic Development Corporation, and maybe someone from there is on the line today. I hope so. But you know, we,
we've worked closely with them with their youth apprenticeship program, and this was another really kind of critical timing moment for us with as things slow down last summer, we were able to bring in some younger workers through the high School Apprentice program that they offered, which you know. Really helped us kind of kind of beef up our staff and things like that too. I've also, you know an award winner with them, which also helped us put us on spotlight in twenty nineteen we did receive the local entrepreneur of the Year award, so similar in the vein of the SBA having that local, you know, kind of government resource.
Put that attention on us was really added. Added a boost to our business. Thank you for sharing that Nathan and I think you bring up an important point about being able to access other programs, whether local, county, state, federal. It's really important to understand what you have available to you, and even if it's not right in your own neighborhood, but just by knowing that it's out there and available, so I appreciate you sharing that.
And then I think you also bring up a very relevant point about when you partner and get services from a lot of these organizations. It also opens you up to get that recognition and some additional. Free marketing, so that's always a nice little byproduct of having interactions with these organizations. So now let's move over to Theresa and Sharisa.
Please share with us if you've had any type of counseling or Technical Support from any of our partners or any of your local organizations as part of your entrepreneurial journey. Yeah, absolutely. And that was a really good point.
Anything 'cause I as well in North Dakota was the the small business person of the year last year. Come and then the year before that, the SBA was also helped a lot with we were nominated. We went to the made in America thing in DC, and so that was really cool to be able to be a part of that that we were representative for North Dakota. For for Maiden American products, and that our marketing and advertising and that exposure is invaluable. It it creates a boost in your business that you is is is unprecedented really as far as other programs. We've worked with like it's similar.
Nathan with the EDC. We got our ISO certification which was huge for us. It is a quality certification to basically do what you say and say what you do in manufacturing and it helps you get bigger customers and it helps you with the manufacturing process. We've also worked with score and that's a service core of retired entrepreneurs and that input and insight is is invaluable in a lot of different ways to get. Other people who have been in business and get that insight and advice when you're in business.
The thing you beg for it all stages is just help. Just give me some advice and there's nothing worse than asking for it. And then at the end after you got it all figured out, somebody comes in. It's like, oh I could have told you that and you're like thanks.
So that's where resources like you guys are invaluable because you can call and be like I really need this and they're like OK, call this guy and this guy. And even if they don't have the answer, the lead you to the right place. Whether it's SBA, whether its core, whether it's the SBDC or the your local EDC, all the acronyms, they're unbelievably, there's a lot they have to offer, and every time I ask, there's it's. It's a bigger door. And like you guys were talking about the USDA stuff. This time I had no idea that the USDA did anything as far as grant and loan program, so I'm actually excited to hear what you guys are going to talk about.
Thank you for that Theresa. Before we move off this question I mentioned earlier that we're joined today by Stephanie bouzouki who's the chief of staff for the USDA, Stephanie, could you please let us know relative to the services described by our two small businesses, Dakota Micro and Quantum PC services. What it is that the USDA provides in terms of Technical Support that others may take advantage of in their local communities? Yeah, Terry, absolutely. I'll start by talking to just a little bit about the rural business cooperative service and then get into the question here about technical assistance. So at the rural business cooperative service, which you might hear me refer to, is rarbg or an agency within USDA rural development and our focus is creating economic opportunity in rural communities.
Now I feel like that phrase is really overused but but I mean it, our number one job is supporting role businesses and their communities with financing and technical assistance. I think a lot of people here USDA, and they automatically think farmers and that is this. It's simply not true.
USDA touches so many different parts of the country and our economy, including kind of our rules, small businesses. So as as far as technical assistance, actually Nathan and tourists, your story is made me think of one that recently came out of Montana. Montana Craft Malt company in Montana. They are a major distributor for Brewers and distillers and during COVID nineteen.
Like a lot of other businesses who are in supply chains such as that they they took a really big hit. And thankfully they were able to take out one of our guaranteed loan programs that we were able to provide under the CARES Act to give them some urgency working capital to keep them going. But coming out of the pandemic, though they realize that they really needed help with their online presence.
I think probably they're not alone in some of the small business owners who had to really rethink how they do their business operates. They were able to get hooked up with a local nonprofit and this local nonprofit. They had also received funding through USDA, but they had received a rural business development grant. These are really flexible grants that we give to nonprofits and public agencies with communities specifically to support their role.
Small businesses with that grant, the nonprofit was able to turn around and give them awards. For marketing and website integration. So like I said, really appreciated your comments to and also kind of the transition you coming out of the pandemic. And what does the new normal look like in helping businesses adapt. It's important as well.
Thank you for that Stephanie and in your role as Chief of staff with the USDA 's cooperative services. Tell us a little bit about your role and how that helps the small businesses and particularly the rural small businesses across our country. Sure, so as I mentioned, I ended the chief of staff, but I'm I'm one person within an agency of nearly a hundred people who are spread all over the country serving small businesses. Often, they're they're able to help places people in places where they live.
And a big part I like I've touched on before something that I, I think is really unique and about what we do is the diverse types of businesses that we do serve. It's mainstream shops, big plants, worker co-ops, all of the above. We work with them and were able to provide programming and needs to that we hear from folks are securing working capital financing equipment, job training.
These are all the sorts of things that were also able to assist with through our number of programs. I think that really the most important thing for people is is it can be overwhelming, especially navigating a really big agency like USDA and tourists said I didn't even know you guys did this. So going to our website sometimes that's not going to help you much.
It doesn't mean much to you. So like I said, I'm I'm one person in a really big team and I would recommend that folks do what they can can to get in touch with their local state rural development office. They have folks there who can talk to you, help answer questions, and maybe even points you toward opportunities that might be a best fit for you. Thank you very much for that Stephanie.
Come just as you mentioned, that USDA has offices throughout EU. S as does the SBA and also joining us on our panel today is aiming Lee. I did mention her earlier so she's one of SBA leaders as the director of the Wyoming District office and that also the acting regional administrator covering five states in the Rocky Mountain region. So as we move over to Amy, Amy tell us a little bit about some of the things that you've done as the district director in Wyoming to support the rural communities and also some of the things that have happened within your region and in your role, both as the acting administrator, regional administrator, and in your role as the district director. How SBA programs and services are helping our rural communities.
Sure, Terry, thank you so much for having me today. I'm delighted to be here with all of you helping businesses get the assistance they need to start, grow, expand and recover. After disasters is always been a core part of our mission here at SBA and we have sixty eight district offices across the country and the staff in these district office really are the boots on the ground and your local point of contact. For all of the SBA programs and services across the country, and we work really closely, especially in our rural communities with our other stakeholders and partners and small business owners.
So you can put a face with the name of a really large agency. Just as Stephanie was alluding to and mentioned when she was talking about USDA in. In my role as a district director, we work really closely with our SBA Resource partners. As Hertha Nathan have mentioned. The small business development centers, the women 's business centers, Gore and our Veterans business outreach centers.
These trusted partners what they can do for you as a small business owner is provided free and confidential. One on one counseling and training on all kinds of different business topics. From business planning through understanding financials, understanding cash flow, which has been probably never more important than over the last year as you're running. Your business, marketing and more.
They also offer great training classes, many of which have been online through this crisis and and I expect a lot of that will continue because it's just been such an effective way to reach small businesses. SBA also offers exporting assistance through our state trade expansion program or step grant program, which is a partnership with states across the country to provide businesses with exporting assistant. A lot of the other stuff we do, Terry takes place behind the scenes in district offices. For example, we work very closely with our SBA participating and PPP Paycheck protection program lenders behind the scene.
So if a lender has a question about how to use our programs or you know is really trying to get a small business deal to a yes but is running into some challenges they call us and we are able to work very closely with them. And so if your lender has questions about alone. Or maybe you're working on getting your PPP loan forgiven and having challenges they can reach out to us. And while we're talking about PPP loans.
Terry has something really important to mention really quickly through all those online if your PPP loan was for a hundred and fifty thousand dollars or less. And it hasn't been forgiven yet SP. SBA PPP forgiveness portal or direct. Forgiveness Portal launched earlier this month. This is just one example of the many ways our administrator, Isabella Guzman has really prioritized working with the smallest of businesses across the country and making sure they get relief from those loans.
As of last Wednesday, it had already received more than three hundred and forty thousand submissions and more than twelve hundred and thirty PPP lenders had opted in, which represents fifty percent. Of the outstanding loan applications. So if your lenders opted in, you've probably already received an email from SBA and if they have it, you'll work with them to secure forgiveness on your PPP loan. But this is a great time to be thinking about getting those programs behind us and moving forward into really thriving beyond beyond the pandemic. So Terry, in short, we help businesses in many different ways every day here in the district office, I would say.
Today is a pretty typical day for me, and so before the day is done, I love presented on this web and are with all of you. It's been so excited about assist small businesses with economic injury, disaster loan increases and responded to a number of lender inquiries. And I love what I do. So so happy to be here today with you today. Thank you for sharing that.
Amy and Amy brings up a good point about how much she enjoys her work and I can say that most people who work for SBA and probably USDA and that's something that will have Stephanie comments on. We're very passionate about helping the small business community and helping you get to the right resource. So as you look for assistance. Whether it's for your PPP or EIDL loan or you're looking for a technical service provider, reach out to one of our district offices.
And even if we don't know the answer, we can probably get you to the appropriate resource and as a result of the pandemic, what we're encouraging folks to do, because now we're no longer a secret SBA our name and what we do is out in the mainstream now. So reach out to us. Our resources are free, so there is no cost for you to reach out to us or USDA and try to tap into the resources and get a referral if you need it.
Need it so Amy one more question. Before I switch over to Stephanie and that is just as a follow up in terms of what has changed since the pandemic. I know we had some new loan programs come out as a result of it has anything else changed in terms of the types of outreach were doing or the types of support we're offering to our rural communities. You know, I would say that it's the same type of assistance, but so much more of it. There was a great deal of assistance available to our small business development centers and women 's business centers in in order to help them increase the amount of outreach and training that they were doing. Make sure that small businesses had that one on one assistance with either applying for loan applications, running cash flow projections if you're listening to this and and you're thinking.
Gosh, what are cash flow projections? I haven't done that. Pick up the phone today and really work on that and know where your cash is. I can't emphasize that enough because it's going to make a huge difference.
If there are any continued disruptions in your business going forward, being able to survive those ups and downs, understanding that. And that's what our resource partners do so well. So there have been a number of other, you know, more specific programs such as the Restaurant Revitalization Fund that's helped so many restaurants across the country. Or shuttered venues, operators, grants. But we're really moving back into a time when our core SBA programs and services are going to be front and center and and they've been there before the program, but before the pandemic and will continue afterwards.
I'm sure many people have heard of R Seven a loan guarantee program, and more. All kinds of funding opportunities for small businesses. Thank you so much for that and thank you again for highlighting the changes in programmatic enhancements that have happened as a result of the pandemic and also for creating awareness about the ecosystem of assistance that exists. Whether it's our score, mentors or our small business development centers or the women 's business centers or Veterans business outreach centers and for the veterans on the line. Thank you so much for your service to our country. You're recognized and appreciated.
Now let's switch over to Stephanie and Stephanie. I'd like to sort of dovetail off of some of the things Amy shared in terms of what is the USDA done differently as a result of the pandemic in terms of outreach and program enhancements, and then also if you could talk just a little bit more about the technical assistance and how one of our listeners might go about accessing it. Inotera absolutely, as far as what has changed at USDA Rural development, I would say, like many people across across our country, they're doing more virtual programming. They're learning ways to adapt and making sure that resources are online and even during the pandemic rule, development launched a resource page with information in both Spanish and English where folks could find the latest information about our programs that related to COVID recovery, or might be able to assist businesses. That were struggling.
And looking ahead as to what we're able to offer businesses coming out of this pandemic, we're trying to grapple with some of the changes that have been made. I'd like to talk about just a few of our programs. First is our lending programs. Well, I? I assume that money folks here on the line or small businesses, we also have the ability to serve mid size and larger businesses in rural communities as well.
So if you're a business that is growing, we do have a program that can offer up to twenty five million in loan guarantees for businesses with any kind of rule areas. And we also make loans intermediaries. These are small community development financial institutions or economic development organizations that it sounds like some of the other folks here on this panel have work with. They can receive loans to help re lend them within their area and make sure that they you know they reach folks who might otherwise never even think that they would qualify for our program at USDA. You know, I'll guess I'll tell just another story too about these programs are the kind of businesses that they're able to assist.
We we received a story from Selfless Oregon. There was a a family that wouldn't to get back on their feet and start a mechanic shop. Yeah, the bank even made them take a nine week course to how to develop a business plan and they still couldn't get along. They were able to connect with a non profit organization that had received one of these these laws to relent. They got a hundred and sixty one thousand dollars and that's what it took to get them up and running. As far as being able to connect with these lenders again the best place for folks to start is going to be through your rule development state office and after this as well I'll make sure that everybody gets the link to how to connect both email addresses and phone numbers for folks who are in your area that you can reach out to.
And that goes the same for the technical assistance piece of it as well, Terry. Those who are interested in learning more about other grantees who might be able to provide them services. It's a good place to look and start. Thank you so much for that Stephanie. Just one other thing as a follow up to that.
So you provide capital programs you provide technical service programs? Do you also provide disaster recovery programs? Because that's something else that SBA does that a lot of small businesses don't recognize that we do. And particularly people think of the pandemic, but not necessarily as a disaster but from an SVA perspective it is a disaster and some of the programs are tide to our disaster recovery. But that also applies for us to natural disasters, whether it's flooding or a tornado or hurricane or a forest fire or mudslide. So all of those other things also fall with an SBA 's disaster recovery. So does the USDA has some of those types of recovery programs as well? Yeah, so I think the the role of SBA when it comes to disaster recovery cannot be understated.
The what you, the work that you guys do is is so important and assisting folks who are coming out of a disaster here at rule business. Cooperative service. We do not offer the same kind of support like SBA does with with loans coming out of disaster. Some of our programs though they will provide priorities for applicants who are in areas that have been impacted by a natural disaster. However, this is really more on the forward looking recovery end.
However, scaling up to think about USDA more broadly, there is disaster assistance available, especially for farmers who've been impacted. Thank you so much for that Stephanie, Amy. Is there anything that you would like to add in terms of the services that Stephanie talked about and the fact that we can stack services and what I mean by STACK is the fact that you can utilize the services both of USDA and SBA and some other agency. If you would like. So is there
anything you would like to add Amy? I would just add two things very briefly. You know our disaster programs that you were mentioning, Terry, you know, really are only direct lending is through disaster, and so those economic injury disaster loans that we've been able to make available this year have really helped many businesses with cash flow. Those are direct loans and we also know our colleagues at USDA really well and we work together to provide joint lender training and. Patch and so you know there are many cases where maybe a business would have gotten an economic injury.
Disaster loan from SBA, but then be applying for a business and industry loan through USDA. And so there's really no wrong door. And that's our message for you today. Whichever way you come through these agencies, we work together as federal agency partners as well as with our resource partners to help small businesses. Thank you so much, Amy.
So again, just as a little take away if you're going to make a mental note is whether you have a relationship already established with the USDA, or the SBA is a federal partner. If there's something that you need as a result of a disaster, or if it's just you know, capacity building, reach out to any of us as a resource and we will try to get you to the best resource that fits your need. So it doesn't necessarily mean that we might be the agency that. You deal with or it might not be a partnership between a couple of different agencies, but to Amy 's point, look at it as you know, just get through the door. Once you get through the door, will figure out what room to send you too.
But the first step is just to make that phone call or reach out online and look up the resources. Now I'd like to pivot a little bit and go back to our small business owners and talk to them a little bit about their experience as entrepreneurs and is rural entrepreneurs, in fact. I'd like to go to Sharissa first and have her tell us a little bit about her entrepreneurial journey.
In the beginning, we didn't do a full background about who you are and how you got started in about your business, but certainly as the CEO of Dakota Micro, we'd really like to hear a little bit about where you started, and then how did the pandemic affect you, and how did you move forward. Uh, thank you yeah. Well so originally I am from Southern California.
Born and raised and I married a farm boy and moved to North Dakota and was afraid to drive the lawn mower. When I first moved there. So I we farmed for several years and then my husband hurt his neck and was in a neck brace and so I got to drive the kambin and I broke the kambin and so he needed to build something so he could combine one of these big neck braces. And he built a camera and twenty eight years later, twenty. While the business is now twenty years old now, and so twenty years later, we now have a global manufacturing company. We build back up cameras and associated components for the agricultural industry, construction, military, mining, forestry.
We provide cameras. If you were to go out right now and buy, let's say a Massey Ferguson combine, it would have our camera on it and we sell globally. We sell into Japan. In Australia, and I mean all over the place and we have a great business, were located in North Dakota in the southeastern corner of North Dakota, and we have an amazing workforce and we come through the pandemic.
One of the most difficult things was the this just the simple slow down in work that you know everything stopped, truck stopped inventory stop, people stopped and people were scared. They were afraid to come into work. They were afraid to, you know nobody knew especially at the beginning. It was super scary and so we had several people that needed to work from home that had children that you know they weren't able to come into work.
So as best as we could. We worked around it. It was also scary for us as businesses 'cause we didn't know at the beginning. We were required to pay people when they were out and we didn't know if we would get reimbursed for that. And while we are heart goes out to all the people that had to be home, we also needed to make sure we weren't going to go broke by paying for all of this stuff. And so it was great when they did come out with this PPP money for us, we would have kept paying for probably longer than we should have, even if it hurt our company a little bit because you can't not do that.
And so it, there's a lot of businesses. Like us, we are the backbone of the United States. There's people you know under, you know you talk about. I know the SBA considers a small business. I believe it's under like five hundred employees were just over twenty and our size was when you take two or three people out of our workforce. It has an exponential impact on us and just losing those few people even even right now I've got people that are out for kovid and there they can't.
Work and it. It just drives it changes it. I'm so sick of hearing the unprecedented word, but there's no other word for it. This is this is different. I've, you know, I've got four sales vehicles sitting in a machine shed that aren't going anywhere. I still pay insurance on them.
I still, you know, they're sitting there getting dusty and I I don't. I don't know what to do about that. So the PPP money went along way for that. And so anyway.
I think I got a little off topic, but. No, I really appreciate your candor and sharing your experience with us before we move over to Nathan. There's one other question I want to ask you, just as a follow up. So you started your business, and then, of course, you scaled your business over the last twenty years. How has the relationship with your lender evolved during that time? That's actually a really good question, so we work with our local smaller.
It's a Lincoln State Bank in southeastern North Dakota. They are an amazing bank, but they're smaller and so a lot of times they would need a partner with the SBA. Or, you know, Bank of North Dakota or things like that for larger projects. We've sought out larger banks. Larger banks have sawdust out wanting to get our business, and we always end up going back to our smaller lender.
We trust them, we know them. They look out for us. And we really appreciate that relationship with them when it comes to the finance side of a business. It seems like a lot of the discussion around here has been involving finance, which is super important, but our lender is also really great for us for just the advice side and and like so for example our CPA, he was recommended by my bank and and he is a partner for us.
He's actually on our Board of Directors now because you businesses need more than money. They need guidance and. It's one of the biggest things when people ask me I meant or some different small businesses and one of the first things I'm like. You know, I talked to him about like a balance sheet.
Or, you know, an income statement and they don't. They came and wrap their head around what not only what it is, but how did gather that information and that you know what? What financial software do I use? You know, as QuickBooks good enough for me and sometimes it is. And just knowing that and having somebody to talk to about those basic things. It doesn't have to be big. It doesn't have to be, you know, a giant loan. It can be the discussion about who do I call first? How do I get a brochure? How do I you know which phone do I use? Do I have to get a business plan? Or you know, can I use my personal phone plan? I mean, there's so many little tiny things like that that are not financially related.
Their relationship, and that's where the SBA and it sounds like the USDA. They're great for those kind of things you guys can. You can call them, and even if they don't have it. Answer the point to the person that has a right answer. Sometimes you'll actually get a whole bunch of people calling you, and it's kind of overwhelming when you ask for help from them because you're like getting twenty people calling you. You're like too much too much, but just pick the right person and the right program for you and it's OK to tell them no.
It's OK when they call you to say I'm not ready for that yet. Can I just have this? I don't need this. It's OK to tell them that they're trying to help, so that's something that you guys when when people reach out to to the SBA they're they're super excited to help you. I mean, it's like crazy. How happy they are to want to help and guide and everything else so don't be afraid. But it's OK to tell them.
I just need this or I need this and they're they're really good about it. From my experience, I've had really, really great experiences. Thank you so much for that sharisa. As we move over to Nathan I want to ask him that same question and hear about his entrepreneurial journey and also how his relationship with his lender is evolved.
Overtime in particularly up up to the pandemic and I guess including it as well. But you do bring up a very important point and that is that relationship with your lender. So thank you so much for for sharing that because that is really important so Nathan, can you go ahead and tell us about your entrepreneurial journey. And as the founder and president of Quantum PC services, I'm sure everyone would like to hear how you got to where you are, Sir. Sure, well, I've always been the computer guy. I had always been the, you know, the friend and family and things like that would turn to me for their computer advice and help.
But living in a small rural community, you know technology focused trades aren't really. You know, there's not not available places to go work like that. So I I worked in other trades, you know to get by but.
I had always wanted to kind of get into technology, so over the years you know I had applied in different markets out of town and considered moving and things like that to kind of get into my trade and ten years ago it'll be ten years coming up here. But a decade ago now, I decided, you know, maybe I could just start my own business here doing what I want to do, and my plan was really to be a sole proprietor and work as a technician and fixed peoples technology problems. And you don't do that instead of my.
Previous career I quickly scaled up. I got into a shop and started my business and and pretty much had employees immediately and have had pretty aggressive growth over the last ten years. We have sixteen employees now, plus four seasonal employees.
And you know that number number continues to grow. It's been a real wild ride. I never would have dreamed that someday I'd be on SBA panel, let alone did all. Be able to introduce myself with some words of one and things like that, and I've learned a whole lot through it. I do things a lot different now in the beginning then I did, you know, ten years ago so.
Yeah, I mean that's that's kind of my story. I do consider myself and this is self proclaimed, but I'm somewhat of a local hero here in our small town. I think I am a relatable person. A lot of the I see a lot of new entrepreneurs coming in people that I know or don't know.
But I I think I've inspired a lot of people that are regular guys. They're turning a wrench somewhere and they're like, you know what? In, instead of showing up for this job, I think I could make a goal of something in and do something on my own. I really stumbled in the business on accident that we hadn't set out. The business plan or to be an employer I set out to be a technician now luckily I somehow I found it inside myself to learn the business skills and you know to be able to to keep things moving in the right direction.
But you know, I think it gives hope to a lot of people that you know they want to start a car detailing business or they want to, you know, start something that's in their passion. Maybe they're stocking shelves at the grocery store and they want to, you know, fix computers for a living and then beyond that I try to make it a real big point. We do a lot of things in our community, but one of the things that's really important to me is is bringing on and mentoring young people through the youth apprenticeship programs through college interns of the twenty people on our staff.
Half of them are, you know, twenty one years. For younger in age, being in technology, you know I'm very fascinated by this next generation coming up that was born with screens in their hands and their ability to basically give back to the universe. I have had very good success with that and good luck. It's funner for me to train people how to do a job then do a job myself so I like bringing in these younger people and and you know basically handing the trade off to them and it's been a lot of fun. Thank you so much for that Nathan.
One quick question and that is just how has the relationship with your lender evolved? Well, we didn't really use a lender prior to our SBA program. We've had an open credit line with them, but you know, our businesses had lucky enough to be successful enough that we've always, you know, been able to produce our own capital. Now are as far as the evolution of the relationship with the lender after our PPP. Protection loan you know we've maintained an open credit line, but we've also pursued buying a new facility that they've rolled up into a SBA. Five oh four program, which I really had no idea existed till that lender explained to me. So we're looking at purchasing a facility and upgrading it, and they said, you know, this is what we can do with this loan and basically gave me an opportunity to finance pretty large project.
Fifty percent of it was financed by the SBA at, you know, a fixed one percent. So I think the term like free money or cheap money gets thrown around a lot and things like that. But you know, in this case it was the difference between me buying a dilapidated facility and potentially using it as is, or being able to have the additional capital to completely renovate it and make it something special and unique for me.
So without the SBA help, you know, I'd still be able to do something, but it really, I think, amplified the impact I was able to have. Wonderful thank you so much Teresa and Nathan for sharing your experiences and all of the words of wisdom. So now as we wrap up real quick, give me something that you want folks to walk away from your presentation. So Nathan, thirty seconds. What are those words of wisdom? Well, you gotta be agile.
You gotta build the roll with the punches for us when the world started to you know, turn upside down. We had to look at what products we are delivering and figure out how do we make these remote? How do we make these accessible? For peoples offices, how do we change the way we're doing business to match what the alignment with the world here instead of the other way? So you gotta be quick on your feet and when these things come up you gotta be ready to move in a new direction if needed. Alright, wonderful sharisa.
Same question. Thirty seconds. What are those words of wisdom you can share? Just don't be afraid to ask. Ask for help. Ask for guidance.
S for input. We have support systems around us, whether it's the SBA, whether it's you know my lender, we've an amazing relationship with them. Yeah, we don't own any money, but they are there for us if we need them and the my the people that I work with there there there are family.
They're not. Employees are the people that help our wheels turn. And we all work together and. We've turned to them and we've also turned to, you know, other business owners and if we look to each other and learn from each other, you know you you can't go wrong. Thank you Sharisa and Nathan for your community leadership for your giving back not only to your employees but also to your communities.
Your what makes America what it is. You know small Town USA. So thank you for that. Now I want to go to words of wisdom now.
Stephanie could you please share in thirty seconds the words of wisdom that you would like folks to walk away with. As far as words of wisdoms, I I think it would be. Don't be afraid to ask for help and reach out. To our offices to our National office, we have somebody there who is ready to connect with you and and willing to do so.
And I also want to say to that all the out of the discussion today about the need for that outreach in that guidance. That's something that we really take to heart and I appreciate you saying that and and sharing that. Thank you so much, Stephanie, and thank you for the work that you guys do over at the USDA. I know that our rural entrepreneurs appreciated if they haven't dealt with USDA yet.
I hope that after this call they will now last, but certainly not least Amy. Would you like to share your words of wisdom with our listeners? And then we're going to move on to the video from the honorable congressman Sanford Bishop. Sure Terry, I would love to, you know, I was just really fascinated listening to our small business owners today, as I'm sure all of you have joined us were and for me something that really resonates is that entrepreneurs learn from each other too, right? And so it's been a hard year year and a half when we maybe haven't been able to network in person in the ways that we did before COVID. But as it becomes safe to do that again, I'd really encourage you to. To join any you know organizations in your community where entrepreneurs get together and share information and learn from each other, that's really the informal way that that growth happens, because you might learn something from Nathan or Theresa in a way that they'll tell you like how it really is in a way that you might not hear it from someone who works for the government or even from a resource partner. Even though many of us have run businesses and and then there so the second thing that I would say.
Perian clothing is that I think it's been underscored throughout the day. What a key key point of importance that is to get in touch with your local resources. And so if you go to our SBA website and click on local assistance in the top right corner of the website, you can search for your local district office by your location or ZIP code. You can search for resource partners and those connections reach out to us and take advantage of us.
'cause these connections will really help you if you're maybe new. Maybe you've moved during the pandemic and you're trying to get in touch with what's happening in your new community. This might really help you make some of those connections and also get tide in with with local chambers and other resource partners.
So we're here for you and we'd love it if you reached out to us and in your local district office. We're here to help you. Thank you. Thank you so much, Amy. And now let's hear from.
Congressman Sanford Bishop Greetings, I want to thank the Small Business Administration for hosting this forum today in celebration of Rural Entrepreneurship Month. But more importantly, I want to thank the small businesses and participants who have joined us when Congress passed and the President signed the American rescue plan, we made a commitment to an investment in America, 's small businesses, American rescue plan provided critical relief funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, the shuttered venue operators grant program and targeted economic Injury, disaster loan advance payments. It also created new. Programs like the Restaurant Revitalization Fund to provide support for struggling restaurant operators that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Congress has heard from our small businesses, particularly from those in rural and other disadvantaged communities, about the difficulty in accessing federal relief firms. Administration responded by creating the community navigated pilot program in the American Rescue Plan, so that the smallest of businesses can learn more about and access the SBS. Many programs, the American Rescue plan also wrapped up vaccine and testing resources. To prevent and treat COVID nineteen infections so that we can have a healthy workforce and customer base. At the same time, Congress is working to improve the infrastructure upon which our small businesses rely from roads and railways to broadband connectivity.
We are doing this because small businesses are the backbone of our economy. Today's stories and testimonies reflect the recovery we are seeing all across America as our nation continues to face the challenges posed by the pandemic. Sharing these stories is important for events like this, more entrepreneurs will learn about the available SBA resources that can help them succeed and revitalize rural America.
Together our building back better. Thank you to my panel today. It has been my honor and my privilege to join you and moderate the discussion. I am very appreciative for you sharing in such candid terms your experiences as small business owners. Your expertise with the USDA and also with the SBA.
So I would like to also share with you my words of wisdom and one of my takeaways and that is we talked about how important it is. To know your lender, connect with your lender, and Teresa shared her experience and so did Nathan. So as you walk away today, I think it's important for you to know as either a new business owner or someone who's considering opening your own business is to really seek out what resources are available to you from a financial or technical perspective and on the financial side, know what's available to you as a startup and as you scale your business. If you're already in business, understand what resources are available to you.
In terms of how you grow your business, because that financial peace is something that we see most small businesses struggle with at some point. Whether it's in the early stages or the growth stages. So just know what's available and you will be ahead of the curve in terms of making sure that you stay sustainable and planning for the unknown, like we've had to do with the pandemic, which is unheard of. So again, thank you to my panelists. Amy Lee from our Wyoming District, office of SBA Stephanie Buzz, rookie from the USDA Teresa.
Ruby as the CEO of Dakota Micro Nathan Draeger as the founder and president of Quantum PC. Thank you so much for joining me and for future reference. Today's webinar is recorded so you can access that SBA 's YouTube channel.
Also, there have been previous topics each month and you can also listen to those by going to SBA dot Gov and you'll access them via SBA 's YouTube channel. For more information about SBA Resources you can go to WWW dot SBA dot Gov and for the USDA to visit their website you'll go to WWW dot R D as in rural and disaster or delivery dot USDA dot Gov. So WWW dot R D dot USDA dot Gov and one thing that I'd like to leave with is first and foremost. Thank you for listening today. Thank you for the work that you do and for the contributions that you make to your communities as small business owners or future small business owners. And one thing that I want you to realize is no matter what your entrepreneurial journey looks like, know that you're not alone in that walk.
That there are free resources available to you. Whether you need a mentor, whether you need technical assistance, whether you need financial assistance, disaster recovery. SBA is there to walk that walk with you. USDA there's other federal, state local resources available as well. So pick up the phone, get on your computer and do a search. Reach out and even reach out to other entrepreneurs that you may know.
Because peer to peer is just as important to have a support system in place. Is entrepreneurs so stay safe and we'll see you next time and again if you need to access this, you can get it on SBS YouTube channel. Or you can visit us at WWW dot SBA dot Gov. Thank you so much.