In RISE Collaborative’s latest RISE & SHINE virtual meetup, Brian Brown from Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc. (SERCAP) shared how his organization provides entrepreneurs technical assistance to start and grow their businesses.
Founded in 1969, SERCAP is a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) with a mission to improve the quality of life for people living in the Southeastern United States, including Virginia. SERCAP pursues its mission in a number of ways — from providing residents access to clean water and safe, affordable housing to offering financing, counseling and training services to small businesses.
With a focus on providing assistance to small, minority and women-owned businesses, SERCAP offers a range of services that include bookkeeping, marketing and pricing strategies, professional development, cash flow management, customer retention and much more. The organization extends those services to businesses both new and old, doing so with the philosophy that a network of thriving businesses contributes to the prosperity of the community as a whole.
“The great thing is we have expertise ourselves and also with our partners…. We offer a little bit of everything,” Brown said. “Most of our consultants are MBAs with great backgrounds to help small businesses grow and develop.”
Brown and his team perform business analyses and offer customized plans based on the owners’ goals, resources and capacity for growth — all free of cost.
“We offer a lot of one-on-one consulting services, and my typical client gets about 30 hours of free services,” Brown said. “It’s all of those services we mention as well as just going through a deep dive into the business and the idea they have, articulating that better or articulating a problem they’re having and looking at how to fix that problem.”
In addition to individualized attention, SERCAP also offers webinars and training modules as part of a self-paced, on-demand training program through its national parent organization, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership (RCAP). These programs are free and allow entrepreneurs to improve their business acumen at their own pace.
SERCAP also offers small-business loans that can be used as working capital or for expenses including machinery and equipment, inventory, property renovation and more. Those loans are available to all small businesses operating in an area with a population of 50,000 or less.
“We know there are several different needs businesses have, so we want to make sure we can meet all of those needs,” Brown said of SERCAP’s loan program. “It’s pretty open what you can use it for.”
Brown also recommended business owners connect with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which provides similar consulting services for entrepreneurs.
“I always recommend they go through the Small Business Development Center as well. That way we can be sort of an auxiliary service to them,” Brown said. “They can refer to us; we can refer to them. It’s a way for us to ‘cross-work’ together.”
Whether it’s fine-tuning a business plan, seeking sales leads or securing more capital, SERCAP’s team of expert consultants can help entrepreneurs turn obstacles into opportunities. To learn more, contact Brian Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit sercap.org.
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