Small Business Administration: A constant source of support for small business

Small businesses across the country have shown resilience and renewal the past 18 months during the pandemic. The word “pivot” has become a normal operating procedure for entrepreneurs as they continue working diligently to find their way through these trying times.

One constant is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s dedication to helping small businesses with the support they need to start, expand, and/or recover from this pandemic. SBA is proud to participate in the West Virginia BusinessLink network to help foster innovation, growth, and prosperity throughout West Virginia. A small business is an entrepreneur’s baby, and we all know it takes a village to raise a baby.

Through programs like the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), grants, and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), SBA has been able to get funding out to the nation’s small business communities during this pandemic.

One example is Analabs in Crab Orchard, WV. They utilized PPP and EIDL for payroll, insurance, and to keep up with their accounts payable. “Being able to pay vendors and have the supplies our team needed to do their jobs was crucial in keeping the business open during the pandemic,” said Vice President Kelli Harrison. “Paying our vendors really trickles down to helping keep other small businesses open.”

SBA also offered COVID funding programs targeted to restaurants through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, and live venue operators through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant.

Tygart Valley Cinemas was forced to shut down their operations and was unable to resume business until August of 2020. They saw a 90 percent loss in revenue due to COVID. In July 2021 they received SVOG funding. If we had not received the grant, we would probably still be riding out the storm as we speak,” stated Melissa Carunchia who operates the business with her husband Michael. “The stress of running a small business during COVID is very hard and life consuming. We are grateful that we were awarded the grant and are confident it will get us through this difficult time.”

While PPP, RRF, and SVOG have ended, the EIDL loan program is still open for potential borrowers to apply through the portal at https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/. In addition, SBA has the standard lending programs in place to continue to assist small businesses. To learn more about the 7a, 504, and microloan programs visit www.sba.gov.

SBA also assists small business owners who want to learn more about exporting. You can learn how to increase profits, reduce market dependence, and stabilize seasonal sales by taking your products and services international.  Visit www.sba.gov for exporting assistance.

In addition, SBA works with federal agencies to award 23 percent of prime contracting dollars to eligible businesses and provide counseling to help small business contractors. The SBA provides several programs to help small businesses win federal contracts including the 8(a) Business Development program, Woman-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting program, and the HUBZone program. More information on contracting assistance can be found online at sba.gov or by contacting the SBA West Virginia District Office.

Counseling is a critical part of helping small business owners succeed, that is why SBA works with a network of resource partners to provide one-on-one counseling. They include the Small Business Development Center, SCORE, Women’s Business Center, and Veteran’s Business Outreach Center. To locate a resource partner near you visit www.sba.gov/localassistance.

SBA’s West Virginia District Office is staffed with more than 150 years of experience assisting entrepreneurs. Our team offers a variety of training. You can find the schedule located at www.sba.gov/wv. The SBA WVDO can be reached via email at wvinfo@sba.gov or by phone at 304-623-5631 between the hours of 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.

On a final note, SBA celebrates National Small Business Week September 13-15, hosting a virtual three-day live summit where small business owners can have access to learn from, honor, and celebrate their impact on the economy and strengthening our communities as we work towards recovery. To register for the National Small Business Week Virtual Summit and to learn more, please visit http://www.sba.gov/NSBW.

About the Author

Karen Friel – SBA WV District Director

Karen Friel is the district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s West Virginia District Office and has been employed by the agency for the past 14 years. During her tenure with SBA she has held multiple positions including administrative officer, business development specialist, lead business development specialist, deputy district director, acting district director and district director. Karen is responsible for the delivery and leadership of SBA’s financial and business development programs throughout the state of West Virginia.

Karen’s top priority coming into the role as district director was to lead the West Virginia District Office to build strong relationships with federal, state, and local agencies and organizations. This initiative has proven successful and resulted in the office meeting the needs of more small businesses in West Virginia through the creation of collaborative partnerships, and has led to the team to exceeding the agency’s targeted goals and measures each consecutive fiscal year.

Karen attended Fairmont State University and obtained degrees in marketing, management, and business administration. She has nearly 30 years of experience in banking, business, marketing, event coordination, and management. Prior to joining the SBA, Friel was a commercial loan processor for ten years with multiple banking institutions in West Virginia.

Karen is a West Virginia native, growing up on the slopes at Snowshoe Mountain Resort. She currently resides in Bridgeport with her husband and two children.