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Centers for Employee Ownership across the nation reflect on partnerships with SBDC

Successful Employee Ownership conversions require expert guidance in areas such as business law, planning, finance, and management. SBDCs across the country are repositories of such guidance and resources, whether someone is pursuing employee ownership or a traditional ownership plan. As more aging business owners retire during the ongoing “Silver Tsunami,” SBDCs and employee ownership centers can work in collaboration to help connect business owners, employee groups, and entrepreneurs with the specific tools they need in order to facilitate smooth ownership successions and help businesses continue to thrive in their communities for decades to come.

Below, representatives at employee ownership organizations across the country tell why they are proud to be SBDC Ambassadors, and how they are partnering with state SBDCs to broaden capital ownership and help build stronger businesses and resilient communities.

Isiah Parfait, Education & Outreach Coordinator – Center for Community-Based Enterprise

In Detroit, Michigan, the Center for Community-Based Enterprise (C2BE) engaged nationally with America’s Small Business Development Center (ASBDC) in support of the 2018 Main Street Employee Ownership Act (MSEOA). Locally, since 2019, C2BE has engaged SBDC resources on the ground, connecting small business cooperatives with small business traditional supports. Because of this, C2BE is excited to be an ASBDC Ambassador.

Ryan Thornton, Communications & Outreach Coordinator, Vermont Employee Ownership Center

The Vermont SBDC has been a wonderful resource for business owners and entrepreneurs considering employee ownership over the years. Not only have they supported employee ownership through education, outreach, and referrals to the VEOC and professional advisors, but they were also a tremendous resource to one of our local worker-owned cooperatives before and during the ownership conversion process.

Elias Gardner, now a co-owner of the New School of Montpelier, says he was not at all looking forward to becoming the sole owner of the school when his mother, the founder and previous owner, was ready to retire. After attending a couple of our annual VEOC conferences, Gardner and the school’s employees decided to form a finance committee to start working out a business plan for purchasing the school as a worker co-op. That’s when Dave Rubel, at that time the Area Business Advisor at the Vermont SBDC, got involved.

In a phone call with the VEOC last week, Gardner recalled that the group was “a bunch of teachers and one-on-one care providers who did not know much, if anything, about running a business” when they first contacted Rubel. Around 15 months later, Rubel had helped the team craft a compelling business plan that ultimately helped them secure a loan to purchase the school. Without Rubel’s help with the business plan, Gardner said getting a loan would likely have been much more difficult, if not impossible.

“[Rubel] spent a lot of time helping us,” Gardner said. “I was blown away by how much support we got for nothing – it was just there. There are so many things to help people with small businesses, but really it was the personal time that was incredible, because, you know, you can read all you want and not understand half of it.”

The New School of Montpelier converted to a worker-owned cooperative in 2015, with loans from the Cooperative Fund of New England and the Vermont Employee Ownership Center.

Marie Davis, Launch Manager – Georgia Center for Employee Ownership

Count the ways a relationship with your local SBDC is rewarding!

Just one conversation with Michael Myers, SBDC Business Consultant in Athens and GACEO got busy! Michael provided a tour of the Delta SBDC Innovation Center in Athens, which incubates some of the new and upcoming businesses fostered by the SBDC. Michael also connected us with another SBDC guru, Mark Collier. Mark invited GACEO to tape a show for Atlanta Small Business Network, which will air in April, 2022.

Another connection came from a sponsorship at the Georgia Chamber Executive Conference last year. We met Jessica Walden, University of Georgia Business and Leadership Advisor; Jessica and Mike Lupo, Business Education/Resilience Specialist, invited GACEO to present to 50 SBDC Ambassadors throughout Georgia. Jessica is featured on the cover of the latest Georgia Trend Magazine. Jessica and her husband have a family business in Macon, Georgia, and she is also a co-owner in a very interesting business, Rock Candy Tours.

You might know who you will meet at the SBDC, but you can’t imagine who you will meet because of the SBDC! GACEO is excited about partnerships with SBDC and referrals from them that serve our communities. GACEO is also grateful for their work and look forward to supporting our SBDCs in any way possible.

Guenevere Abernathy, Executive Director – North Carolina Employee Ownership Center

From its inception in 2019, North Carolina Employee Ownership Center (NCEOC) has worked with staff at the Small Business Technology Development Center (SBTDC) located across North Carolina’s Universities. In 2019, four of NCEOC founding board members, along with an ESOP executive, presented at the annual meeting of the NC SBTDCs in two different sessions on succession planning and employee ownership. Over the years, NCEOC board members have participated in several SBTDC succession planning seminars, providing employee-ownership-specific content, and NCEOC has continued to share information on employee ownership with SBTDC staff.

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