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Owning and operating a small business in San Francisco can be a richly rewarding experience. Not only does the small business owner have pride of ownership and job satisfaction, there’s also the possibility of greater earnings and working flexible hours. But as any small business owner knows, owning a business can also be a challenge, especially if new competitors decide to open their doors nearby, possibly taking away long-time customers.
Gabriela Sapp, Assistant Director of the San Francisco Small Business Development Center of Northern California, has more than 15-years of experience in areas such as business and economic development and commercial lending. In addition to providing a number of services to the small business owner, she also offers career and educational advice for people interested in starting their own business.
What is your role and your educational background?
“My role is to assess small business needs and capital requirements. Once my assessment is finalized, I provide free and confidential one-on-one business counseling and low-cost business training. I also connect small businesses with resources they need. These resources are capital, online business tools, introductions to prospective partners, clients, government representatives, etc. My goal is to create more jobs in the local economy and more sustainable small businesses.”
“I have a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Lima, Peru and an MBA from San Francisco State University.”
What services do you provide for small business owners?
“I advise small business owners on financial management, access to capital, business planning and government contracting assistance. I help these businesses secure financing, which includes SBA loans, micro-loans and alternative loans like peer-to-peer lending and crowd funding.”
“I promote seasoned small businesses by writing success stories based on the achievement of their business and financial goals. These stories are published on our website and e-newsletters that goes to a database of more than 5,000 subscribers. Our database is composed by current and past SBDC clients, merchant associations, Chamber of Commerce, trade associations, economic development organizations, local, state and federal government representatives, financial institutions, local universities and local media.”
What advice can you offer individuals interested in a career in business?
“My advice is that business students apply to internships early on in their studies so they can practice, learn and gain real life experience before they obtain their business degrees. By doing that, they will be ahead of the competition when they graduate.”
“Curiosity and initiative are also important traits for business students. We need more innovators and creators in our society. By constantly being aware and observing the environment and people, needs can be created or discovered.”
“It is also very important that students and graduates work for a company in the same industry they want to start a business. If they want to become entrepreneurs, the learning curve will be shortened and the probability of success can be increased.”
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.