USM’s Small Business Development Center sees growth

USM’s Small Business Development Center sees growth

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - It’s the American dream to see a vision, work and grind it out until you watch that vision come to fruition. That’s how the Small Business Development Center on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi sees a boom in the number of businesses they help bring to life in the Pine Belt.

“Once you create that machine, once you get that ball rolling. it’s like a roller coaster ride,” said Joma Shelby, a co-counselor at the Small Business Development Center. “It’s so exciting, and there will be a lot of screaming and a lot of tears."

Shelby, a former USM student, talked about the thrill of getting a business off the ground. This is the feeling the certified counselors at the business development center said more and more people in the Pine Belt go after today.

“This program was begun during the Reagan administration when interest rates were over 10 percent,” said Rita Mitchell, a certified counselor at the center. “They finally dipped under 10 percent in the early 80s.”

Since then, the SBDC has seen stats on an upward trend. The center reported assisting more than 700 clients with proposals, helping start more than 55 businesses and creating more than 300 jobs from January 2015 to mid-December 2018.

“As things have developed, we have become more sophisticated, more data-based and very direct in our services to our small business communities,” Mitchell said.

The SBDC said small business growth is crucial to the Pine Belt.

“Over half of the employment in the State of Mississippi is thanks to small businesses and small business development,” Mitchell said.

Shelby said it is exciting for millennials, too.

“Millennials are so creative, and they have such a wide range of abilities,” Shelby said. “It’s difficult to place them in a box.”

The center, located in the Trent Lott Center, offers free help with pre-venture, startup and even touchstone development.

“When this office opened, the phone started ringing. Our messages started on emails, and it has not stopped since,” Mitchell said.

The counselors call the services they provide, “a labor of love and pure mission to transform South Mississippi.”

“It allows you the freedom to be who you are,” Shelby said. “Sometimes you have that rebel mentality. You want to go against the grain. You can still do that while making a living. You also provide jobs and help people in the community.”

The center hosts workshops for you to learn more about starting your business, copyrighting and trademarks. Click here to learn more.

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