According to the new Small Business Profile just released by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, Wyoming has 7,162 small retail trade businesses and 2,336 small businesses in the accommodation and food service industry. For these businesses, Small Business Saturday®, which falls on November 25th this year and promotes shopping with locally-owned small businesses the day after “Black Friday,” is a very big deal. When Wyomingites focus on shopping small and shopping local, it helps small businesses get patrons through their doors and capture a larger piece of the holiday season consumer spend, which directly impacts our local economies, helps create jobs, and fosters the growth of our neighborhoods. These businesses are often visible not only because they line our main streets, but also because they serve as our gathering places. Local retailers often add to the general feeling of holiday merriment in our downtowns with their brightly lit shop windows and holiday displays.
And yet, these businesses only represent about 13% of Wyoming small businesses, according to the data provided by the SBA’s Office of Advocacy. This means there are many Wyoming small businesses operating in industries beyond those that might typically benefit from a holiday sales boost. The SBA’s goal is to connect entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow, and expand their businesses or recover from a declared disaster. With this in mind, the SBA Wyoming District Office team, including Lender Relations Specialist Tammi Hanshaw, Business Development Specialist Drew James, Deputy District Director Deb Farris, and District Director Amy Lea, reached out across the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Wyoming to go behind the scenes for Small Business Saturday to find tips that might benefit all types of businesses.
One of SBA’s key roles is to partner with lenders to improve small business access to capital, especially when that business is a start-up or needs assistance with obtaining credit. A good lender is a valuable member of your business team, much like an accountant, a lawyer, or a shift manager. Because of the importance of establishing a good relationship with a lender, SBA Wyoming Lender Relations Specialist Tammi Hanshaw suggests first approaching a bank or credit union with whom you already do business, or consider working with a local lender in your community when you need to find additional capital. She recently stopped by two SBA participating lenders in Casper, to ask them what else small businesses can do to ensure a good experience while seeking funds to start or grow your business.
Jens Hansen and Brian Cetak from Hilltop Bank Casper advise being prepared with capital to invest in your business. They said, “We do work with organizations and agencies to help with capital injection, which is one of the reasons why a smaller community bank is a great place to start – we have relationships with resources to help.”
At Jonah Bank Casper, Luke Carlson, Dusty Porter, and Tina Sparby recommend keeping up with bookkeeping and operational reporting. “Most business owners really know their business, and not necessarily the bookkeeping and paperwork behind the business. It’s important to keep up with balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and accounts receivable aging reports, and a good bookkeeper or CPA will keep track of these reports. While it might seem like just an added expense at first, you begin to realize the value in that cost and will see they are worth their weight in gold.”
A second key role at SBA is to support federal government contracting. When it comes to shopping small, did you know that the U.S. government has a goal of spending 23% of its federal contracting budget with small businesses every year? SBA Wyoming District Office Business Development Specialist Drew James and Deputy Director Deb Farris work closely with contracting personnel from federal agencies to ensure that they are aware of SBA programs that help Wyoming small businesses receive their fair share of the contracting dollars spent in Wyoming each year. Earlier this week, Drew and Deb visited with contracting personnel in Cheyenne, including Ilze Karklins-Powers with the Veteran’s Administration; Phillip Kothe with the FE Warren Air Force Base 90th Contracting Squadron; Mathew Clementi, with the Bureau of Land Management; and Kris Kahle with the Wyoming National Guard in Cheyenne. The discussion included utilizing local small businesses, including those that are SBA-certified, such as HUBZone certified firms, 8(a) firms, women-owned small businesses, and service-disabled veteran-owned firms.
These contracting professionals broadly agreed with these three tips to those interested in doing business with the federal government:
- Be sure your business is registered in the System for Award Management – SAM.gov and the SBA Dynamic Small Business Search – DSBS. This is where contracting professionals go to find firms that can meet their needs.
- Reach out to the Wyoming APEX Accelerator! They are part of the Wyoming SBDC Network and provide free and confidential assistance with getting registered in SAM, identifying contracting opportunities for your business, certification programs, and more.
- SBA’s Surety Bond program is vital for those small businesses that need bonding assistance. The SBA Wyoming District Office team can assist with this. Reach out to Drew James and Deb Farris at 307-261-6500.
SBA’s third key role is to provide small businesses with business counseling and training resources. Last August, SBA announced that the Wyoming SBDC Network, which receives federal funding from the SBA, and state funding from the Wyoming Business Council and is hosted by the University of Wyoming, received additional funding for the SBA’s Cybersecurity for Small Business Pilot Program. SBA District Director Amy Lea met with Wyoming SBDC Network State Director Jill Kline in Laramie last week, and asked her if she had any cybersecurity tips for small businesses. Jill said, “Fraud can increase dramatically during the holidays and one of the biggest risks is theft by digital scams. Don’t skimp on your vetting and onboarding processes when you’re hiring temporary, seasonal (holiday) employees. It’s imperative you take the time to properly train all aspects of the employee’s role including your cybersecurity protocols. With increased customer traffic, no matter the employee’s role, discuss your cyber policies and help them understand how serious cyber threats are and how they can help to keep the
business secure. Be vigilant about keeping your software up-to-date, identifying phishing attempts (be skeptical), using and potentially more frequently changing strong passwords, and not allowing any USB storage devices to be used on business computers. Be selective regarding who needs access to your computer or various software. Remember your employees are your first and last defense against scams.” For free cybersecurity assistance, reach out to the Wyoming SBDC Network. James Drever, SBDC Regional Director based in Laramie, is a Certified Ethical Hacker and can help your business access the training and resources through this pilot program.
The SBA is a proud cosponsor of Small Business Saturday®, created by American Express in 2010. To learn more about Small Business Saturday, visit www.sba.gov/saturday. Please join us in shopping small on Small Business Saturday® (and every Saturday!)
About the Author: Amy Lea is the SBA Wyoming District Director. In this role, she helps small businesses start, grow, expand and recover by connecting them with the Agency’s funding, counseling and training, and government contracting programs and disaster assistance resources. She is responsible for the implementation and oversight of all SBA programs in the state and has served in this role since 2013. She previously served as the Wyoming Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) Program Manager, the SBA Senior Area Manager in Juneau, Alaska, and IDA Program Director for the Wyoming Women’s Business Center. She holds a B.S. in biological sciences from Cornell University.