By Gail H.M. Brown, Ph.D.,
Cars were parked bumper-to-bumper and side-to-side near the Community Students Learning Center (CSLC) at 333 Yazoo St., in Lexington, Miss., Saturday, Aug. 27. More than 60 small business owners had come to take advantage of the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Mississippi-Community Navigator Pilot Program’s (MS-CNPP) first Lending Fair. The lending fair also included free technical assistance and business advice.
“Although August is recognized as National Black Business Month, the SBA MS-CNPP is on the MOVE to help small businesses with outreach services year-round,” said Beulah Greer, CSLC Executive Director and Administrative Officer of the CNPP.
As part of a national initiative introduced by President Biden and Vice President Harris, the CSLC MOVE (Mississippi Opportunities for a Vital Economy) project was one of 51 grantees nationwide awarded the Small Business Administration’s Community Navigator Pilot Program grant to do “targeted outreach for small businesses in underserved communities.” (sba.gov).
“Together with our spokes, CSLC MS-Community Navigator strategically instituted the lending fair and on-the spot technical assistance as an outreach in which we hope to partner with other entities to hold in other underserved areas of the state as well,” said Greer. “In fact, we are currently engaged in conversation with another non-profit to hold one in the Mississippi Delta.”
The SBA designates spokes as “trusted, culturally knowledgeable local groups and individuals – who will connect to specific sectors of the entrepreneurial community to provide assistance during economic recovery, including: financial assistance and access to capital; contracting and procurement; marketing, operations, business development, and exporting; industry-specific training.”
Participating lenders in the Community Navigator’s first lending fair were BancorpSouth/Cadence, BankPlus, Guaranty Bank, Holmes County Bank and Trustmark.
“Today was excellent; I was very excited to participate,” said Debra McGee, Senior Vice President and Director of Minority Business Development at BankPlus. “It is very important that all business owners understand the need for technical assistance, a good CPA, attorney, insurance agency and banker.”
McGee also said that lending fairs and technical assistance programs are so important to small businesses.
Three of the small business owners can attest to how important technical assistance is. They were excited that Fresh Start Enterprises, LLC, one of the Community Navigator’s spokes, helped them to acquire their Mississippi Certificate of Formation on-site.
Lolita Bailey, owner of J-Lo’s Occasions, LLC (a gift-creating business) said she learned through the Community Navigator’s outreach that she had to register her business with the state. She had her federal EIN already. “So, today, I am not registered with the state; yah!” she said. Bailey said she also “ learned a lot about business and what you’re supposed to be doing to be considered business.”
Franquetta Langston, owner of Queen of Things in Pickens, Miss., shared similar comments. “Today has just been a blessing; all the way out, a blessing,” she said. “This is a much-needed activity because as black people we need to learn to invest in ourselves and move forward. We can’t live in the past.”
“This lending fair has helped me tremendously,” said Adrian Clark. “It is helping me put my business in position to excel and increase.” Adrian Clark’s Limited Liability Company is a collision repair business: Clark’s Customs, Paint & Body Works, LLC in Durant, Miss.
Spoke Willie McGriggs of WEM Consulting LLC said he thinks the first lending fair was “quite a success.” “Holmes County will never be the same. So much valuable [business] information was shared.
Other participating spokes of the project are North Central Planning and Development (NDPDD), Knowledge Info, LLC, The Institute for Evaluation and Research (TIER), Ad Astra Consulting, BOLO Works, LLC, Carson Consulting, Sydney Brown and Dwayne Perkins. “Our spokes are seasoned professionals who are highly qualified to provide an array of technical assistance services to help small businesses grow,” said CSLC SBA MS-CNPP MOVE Project Director Antwan Clark.
For more information on how the CSLC SBA MS-CNPP can help you start and/or grow your business, please call (662) 834-0905.
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