by Sam Gentry
The COVID-19 crisis has doubtless presented difficult challenges for small businesses.
Many of them have turned to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of West Georgia for help.
The SBDC at UWG is part of the Richards College of Business and is one of 17 centers in the University of Georgia SBDC network. Funded in part by the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), the center offers confidential consulting services free of charge to companies seeking management, marketing and financial advice to help them grow and succeed. Some assistance is also provided to pre-venture businesses that have gathered the necessary information and are ready to move into the marketplace.
Todd Anduze, area director of the SBDC and former Navy plane captain who had the opportunity to train with Navy SEALs teams during Desert Storm, is no stranger to remaining calm and focused during chaos.
Anduze, along with other representatives from the UGA SBDC network, has worked diligently alongside state officials to get help for Georgia business owners. The state director for the SBDC is on Gov. Brian Kemp’s Coronavirus Task Force.
“We worked with them on day one to try to get the data for Georgia to be declared a disaster area,” he said. “Once that happened, it opened up a lot of things and people were qualified for other areas of assistance.”
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, allocated $349 billion to help small businesses
keep workers employed amid the current circumstances. The CARES Act provided funding
for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
program and provides immediate loan payment relief for businesses with current SBA
guaranteed loans. The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) also has benefits in place specifically designed to help businesses and workers
during the pandemic.
“You can’t double up, but you can create a strategy using those funds the way they’re supposed to be used,” Anduze said. “We can help you understand what you’re doing. There’s relief available; we just have to talk through it.”
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, Anduze said his office has gone from receiving around five calls per day to often more than a hundred. Besides Anduze, the SBDC at UWG consists of Cole Fannin, consultant, and Aundi Lesley, program coordinator.
“For several days we were just taking calls and answering questions,” he said. “We wanted to get the information out and be there for people.”
Anduze has also been busy hosting webinars and providing information for the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDED), local mainstreet organizations and other area chambers of commerce.
Due to the pandemic, Anduze said many people are learning things about running their
businesses they wouldn’t have otherwise.
“In some cases, they really didn’t know what they needed,” he said. “Not everyone had a contingency plan in place.”
However, Anduze said the SBDC at UWG can help everyone moving forward, not just with receiving aid, but also with growing
their business, no matter the climate.
“We have the right resources and tools to make sure any business is on track,” he
said. “We can help with the whole business model, and we have so many different tools
at our disposal and so many people in so many areas who we can bring in.”
For now, Anduze said the most important thing for small businesses to focus on is
carefully taking the right steps and making smart decisions.
“Gather your team and resources, and make sure you look at all your options and pick
the one that’s best for you,” he said. “That could be anything. It could be putting
your business on hold or getting one of these loans. Just make sure your needs dictate
Anduze believes a brighter future is ahead for small businesses if they utilize their resources efficiently and stay the course.
“We’ll get through this,” he said. “We just have to work smart and work hard and help each other out.”