Southwestern College Helps Entrepreneurs

The Gluten Free Baking Co. Ribbon Cutting Before Covid
The Gluten Free Baking Co. Ribbon Cutting Before Covid

The coronavirus has upended the lives of business owners, but Southwestern College is helping entrepreneurs in two major ways.

Through the Small Business Development Center, business owners can access capital and marketing strategies–for free. And students who want to take control of their own financial destinies can now earn a certificate in Entrepreneurship and Small Business in a single semester.

In order to get their certificate of proficiency students will take eStrategic Business Planning (2 units), Successful Selling Techniques (2 units), Developing and Starting a New Business (3 units), Entrepreneurship Operating and Managing a Small Business (3 units), Business Innovation and Creativity (1 unit) , and Research Using the Internet (1 unit). The 12-unit program will lay the foundation and basics on entrepreneurship, planning, operation management, advertising and selling products or services. 

The program offers a more streamlined, time- and cost-effective route for students looking to build their entrepreneurial futures. This program can be the first step for students interested in earning their degree in Business Management. After their initial 12 units, students just need an additional seven more units to earn their Certificate of Achievement, and another nine to 12 more units to earn an associate’s degree. 

For more information on this program, you can see our catalog here. Classes begin Feb. 1. To register for the certificate program, go to

Elisabeth Shapiro, a professor at SWC believes entrepreneurship is crucial to our local economy but is also important for students, not just as a full time job, but to create side gigs and new streams of income. Shapiro advocated for the creation of a 12-unit certificate program that could be completed within one semester. 

“There was a demand for people to learn this skill in a short amount of time and that is why I worked with the dean in order to add a course into the semester schedule so that this certificate was possible;” says Shapiro. “This entrepreneurship certificate of proficiency program is focused on skills that are relevant for the self-employed microentrepreneur aiming to flourish in the Covid and post Covid economy.” 

This certificate program is timely, needed and focused on skills that are relevant for the self-employed microentrepreneur in an evolving economy. Yvonne Lucas, another professor in the School of Business, said the skills taught in this program are very important. 

“Now is a unique moment in time where students can think about their aspirations, goals and ideas and truly identify what opportunities are available for them and their future. This program gives them the tools to navigate through those questions, especially during this chaotic time,” she said.

During this pandemic, many government entities are seeing value in supporting small businesses. The federal government and the Small Business Development Center Network are no exception. The federal government provided a stimulus to the state to reach small businesses struggling through the pandemic. Qualifying small businesses will receive up to $25,000. Unlike previous government loan programs, these are grants and they don’t have to be paid back. 

The San Diego & Imperial Small Business Development Center at Southwestern College has developed a series of webinars and other services to help walk small business owners and non-profits through the application process.

“Every day our teams in the region’s Small Business Development Center network work hard to push out important information to small businesses,” said Allyson Lawson, a marketing associate at the SBDC. “Now, more than ever, our free resources can help entrepreneurs and small businesses not only sustain themselves but also thrive. From pivoting during a pandemic to funding or expanding, to overcoming accounting or marketing obstacles, we’re here to help – for free.

“We don’t want to be the area’s best-kept business secret,” Lawson said. “It’s our goal to make entrepreneurship possible for everyone.”

Officials stressed this won’t entirely solve the problems that small businesses face during this time, but it will help them, hopefully, make it to the next round of government funding. As the pandemic rages on, many businesses have been forced to stay closed.

“Our work is so important because it is providing relief to industries that have been heavily hit by this pandemic, such as the food industry, hospitality, tourism and personal services,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, regional director of the San Diego & Imperial SBDC Network.

These resources could be of some help for small business owners, like Roanna Canete, who has made it her life’s work to create healthy, safe food for allergen diners. Canete owns The Gluten-Free Baking Company in San Diego.

Take a look inside A Gluten Free Baking Co.'s business.
Take a look inside A Gluten Free Baking Co.’s business.

“Friends sometimes worry about my business, wondering if I’ll lose clientele when the next fad diet that comes along,” said Canete. “But avoiding food that makes you sick is not a fad diet — it’s a lifestyle choice. Whether my clients come to me because they have serious food allergies or because they simply choose to eat gluten-free, they trust me with their health — and that feels good.”

She says it’s a business, but helping people is the goal.

Hopefully, resources such as the relief package, aid from the SBDC and programs at Southwestern College can help local small businesses and entrepreneurs thrive and help each other during this time. 

For more information on the relief package, SBDC, The Gluten Free Baking Co., and the Entrepreneur and Small Business program at Southwestern College, please follow the links below.