Small Business Development Center Helps Businesses Thrive, Survive During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The San Diego & Imperial Valley Small Business Development Center Network  is a part of Southwestern College's Center for Business Advancement, housed at the Higher Education Center at National City.
The San Diego & Imperial Valley Small Business Development Center Network is a part of Southwestern College’s Center for Business Advancement, housed at the Higher Education Center at National City.

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached San Diego, thousands of businesses found themselves facing new challenges and complete uncertainty. They also found help and support from the San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, who was ready to meet the moment and help businesses during a time when many were closing their doors. 

The SBDC network is part of Southwestern College’s Small Business Development Center, which works to stimulate the local economy and provide businesses with tools and training. 

Since the pandemic, the SBDC network has met with more than 2,400 clients for one-on-one business counseling and support, adding up to more than 5,000 hours of counseling. More than 4,200 regional businesses have attended training and webinars on disaster relief and how to access and apply for federal and local disaster assistance. Their commitment to helping small businesses has paid off. The SBDC has helped businesses access more than $42 million in disaster capital.

“Our staff was fully mobilized,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, associate regional director of the SBDC. “Some of us, of course, are tired because we’ve been working so hard, but we are making a difference by helping people and their business. We know what we’re doing is supercritical to help people save their livelihoods.”

Within the first two weeks of the pandemic, the SBDC helped the Gluten Free Bakery in North Park completely pivot and adjust to changing regulations. About 80 percent of their business was wholesale to local stores and coffee shops. The SBDC helped them change their business practice to drive-up and curbside business. 

“The SBDC’s ongoing support has been nothing short of life-saving,” said Roanna Canete, owner of the Gluten Free Bakery. “They’re just a phone call away – they give me the courage to pursue my dreams, knowing there is nothing I can’t do with this incredible team on my side.”

As San Diego County moves to new phases of reopening the local economy, the SBDC is also moving forward with new training to help transition to recovery. The SBDC is creating a new Adapt Series that will help businesses complete the county’s safe reopen plan; how to adapt human resources policies; and provide training on cybersecurity, eCommerce and marketing. The series will be open to all businesses, but will largely focus on in-home child care, retail and restaurants. This series is available at www.sdivsbdc.org/adaptsd

“We’re going to continue to help businesses adapt to their new realities,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re helping people get through this, helping them reopen and follow the guidelines and giving them a shot to survive.”