SBDC gives business owners fighting chance

The future for a healthy economy in Georgia relies heavily on the success of small businesses throughout the state. They account for 44.8 percent of the private sector labor force in Georgia, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the number of firms totals more than 900,000.

Often, all these entrepreneurs need to be successful is some guidance and knowledge about issues they might not have any experience with. As part of its land-grant status, the University of Georgia operates the Georgia Small Business Development Center, a Public Service and Outreach unit with 17 offices statewide, to help businesses throughout the state grow and prosper. 

The SBDC’s mission is to enhance the economic well-being of Georgians by providing a wide range of educational services for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Over the past five years, SBDC assisted entrepreneurs in starting approximately 1,400 businesses, generating $7.2 billion in sales and creating more than 9,000 jobs in Georgia.

Following are some examples of how UGA’s SBDC assisted small business owners around the state.


Lois and Mike Givens have been fixtures in ITR of Georgia one way or another since they married in 1970. The Tucker-based com­pany, founded a year earlier by her father, originally sold time and punch clocks. Mike started on the service bench as a technician and helped in sales. On his watch, the company diversified into parking access and security products in the early 1980s.

When Lois’s parents retired in 1992, they sold the company to Lois and her sister, from whom Lois purchased the company in 2010. Mike, as president, had a vision to grow ITR to the next level. Lois, now chairman and CEO, also recognized that to grow, the company needed some help defining its overall strategic direction.

With guidance from the SBDC, Lois and Mike grew ITR of Georgia’s annual rev­enue 27 percent in 2011 and another 10 per­cent in 2012. And more growth is coming. Read the full story here:


Those who know Amanda Ro­driguez Crook, owner and founder of Pawtropolis, are not surprised that her Web bio con­tains more information about her five rescue dogs-the wonderful Tyler (since deceased), Kenzie, Bailey, Heidi and Jersey-than of her many awards and accomplishments. Crook’s passion for pets, and the proper care, training and boarding of pets, has driven her to create a thriving Athens-area business.

It also led her to Georgia SBDC consultant Carol McDonell.

“I thought I was doing great, having written a four-page business plan. But it was a joke. After Carol (from SBDC) finished advising me, I ended up with a 45-page plan.” Read more about the Pawtropolis story here:


Dawsonville-based Sheer Imagination is now one of the top 10 toy retailers on with more than 3,000 products online. Last year the company sold more than 500,000 items. This year, owners Adam and Karen Shepherd expect to increase that number by more than 50 percent.

After starting operations from their basement in 2005, the Shepherds have moved five times into successively larger buildings, the latest, a 15,000-square-foot warehouse in Dahlonega. Their office operations have expanded to fill two suites. And in 2012 they opened a new retail store, Giggle Monkey Toys, on Dahlonega’s historic town square.

Neither Adam nor Karen had any experience running a business when they started. “So right from the beginning, we’ve worked with the Georgia SBDC,” says Adam. Read how SBDC helped them start their business here: