Cherrill Wilson is the senior associate director with the Temple University Small Business Development Center (SBDC). In addition to beginning her relationship with Temple as the SBDC incubator manager and business consultant, Wilson brings to the SBDC team over 20 years of financial service experience in banking and accounting services. She has worked as an accountant, bank auditor, senior credit analyst, and financial consultant. In her new role, Wilson manages the organization’s consulting staff which includes business consultants, graduate and undergraduate students. She assists the executive director in the fulfillment of the SBDC’s goals; one of which is to engage in providing business management consulting, legal, government procurement, international trade services, marketing, and financial consulting assistance to new and existing businesses.
As one of the longest-serving staff at the Temple SBDC, how has the organization shifted over the years? How did the small business landscape look ten years ago compared to last year, and now during the pandemic?
I joined the SBDC as a consultant in 2004, and one of my primary roles at the beginning of my tenure was spreading awareness of the SBDC through various community-based organizations. Ten years ago, the Temple SBDC had a larger number of full-time consultants and independent contractors, but over time the SBDC got smaller. Recently, within the past two years, we’ve really started to grow again, adding more full-time and part-time staff.
Ten years ago we had a large number of clients coming to us looking for funding since the economic downturn in that period affected the lending sector and it took the economy years to rebound. A lot of companies and entrepreneurs were afraid to take large risks. Last year, the business landscape was completely different since the economy was doing relatively well. The SBDC was growing to address the concern of small businesses at the time; such as adding an administrator, a start-up consultant and a marketing consultant. The focus for most small businesses was growth-oriented. Companies were much more willing to take on risk during this period compared to ten years ago.
Since the pandemic began, a lot of individuals are looking to start businesses due to mass layoffs and furloughs. A lot of these individuals are looking for funding to help them proceed to launch their ventures. We’ve had to really work with clients to make sure they understand how different the business landscape is compared to what it may have been last year. Entrepreneurs are again less willing to take big risks than they were before the pandemic began, and the focus has really shifted somewhat from growth to resilience, ensuring that their small businesses can withstand the sweeping economic changes that are occurring and stay open.
How do you feel COVID-19 impacts the role of Temple’s Small Business Development Center?
We are at the center of providing help for small businesses in how to operate in the economic reality that has resulted from COVID-19. We have had to grow our own knowledge and offerings in order to match the needs of our growing number of clients. We’ve had to pivot in order to deal with the evolving needs of small businesses. Our consultants are not able to meet with clients in person and now rely upon Zoom meetings for meeting clients and other SBDC staff. Our role has really shifted to helping small businesses secure funding to stay in business. With funding from the CARES Act, we have been able to grow both the number of our consultants and the number of offerings we have, such as the Center of Excellence for Tourism and Hospitality and the Center of Excellence for Digital Services.
How does your work with lending institutions enable the Temple SBDC to empower local entrepreneurs?
I reach out personally to the various financial institutions such as Women’s Opportunity Resource Center, Entrepreneur Works, United Bank, M&T Bank. I reach out to them to find their criteria for lending to small businesses, whether they be startups or existing small businesses. Due to the pandemic, new programs and policies to assist small businesses have been enacted. I work to match clients with the various funding institutions based upon their unique situation and needs. My work with non-traditional lenders such as Community Development Funding Institutions CDFI allows me to assist clients who wouldn’t normally be able to secure loans from traditional lending institutions.
What aspect of your work do you think makes the biggest impact, and what are you most proud of?
My relationships with Temple, the community, the various organizations I have worked with, and the clients I work with, allow me to provide the assistance that small businesses need to grow and succeed. I’m very proud to be able to play a role in facilitating the mission we have at the Temple SBDC of helping entrepreneurs and helping the community we work in.
Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Don’t be discouraged by what is transpiring right now with COVID-19. Think of it as a moment in time, because this season will not last forever. This is a good time to plan and lay the groundwork for the business you would like to launch. Do the research and use all of the resources that are available to you to help you start your business. Remember the Temple SBDC is available to help you during this time.
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