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SBTDC launches initiative to help local businesses face new challenges

Seeking to strengthen local businesses by providing them free entrepreneurial education and personalized assistance, for the new challenges they face due to COVID-19, the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) recently launched the Business Relief Assistance Program.

This initiative will focus on providing business owners with the assistance and the support needed for access to capital, occupational health and safety standards, website development, virtual stores, contingency plans, cyber security, and intellectual property needed for their business continuity.

Since 1997, SBTDC has been driving local entrepreneurs to grow, innovate and export, through a cooperative agreement with the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  

“Many business owners needs mentorship. Some have reinvented by offering new services. Also, there are others that increased their sales during this pandemic,” said CPA Ricardo Martínez, executive director of Puerto Rico SBTDC.

“But although we noticed that some of our clients are now more resilient to face and survive difficult situations, there are still many requests to help them with access to capital and for individualized counseling,” he said. “Among those requests are also those to create or improve their webpage, or to integrate a virtual store.”

The SBTDC recently added new business consultants, through a CARES Grant, to expand the scope of the services they provide to entrepreneurs, the nonprofit announced.

These new resources will complement the business advisory services that are usually offered by SBTDC business consultants, it said.

The Puerto Rico Small Business & Technology Development Center is a partnership program with the U.S. Small Business Administration, administered by the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico.

“Accelerated digital transformation has required great effort from entrepreneurs who have tremendous challenges to achieve their continuity and in turn retain jobs. We’re confident that these new SBTDC services will strengthen the local entrepreneur,” said Manuel J. Fernós, president of the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico.

“We make these service centers located in most of our campuses available to the business community,” he said.

The SBTDC has been proactive in helping businesses since the pandemic began. In March, it opened a virtual business center, which continues to offer services from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Some 13,000 clients have received individualized assessment, 100% virtual workshops and have managed to access more than $51 million in capital for their businesses through the services offered by the SBTDC, the nonprofit said.

The topics of virtual seminars have been in tune with the new needs of entrepreneurs.  For example, recent conferences were on how to sell products through digital platforms, how to generate electronic billing, how to sell through Amazon, and information on restaurant apps, among others.

“I urge pandemic-affected entrepreneurs to take advantage of the new counselling programs offered by our associated SBTDC resources,” said María de los Ángeles de Jesús, interim director of the SBA’s Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands district. 

“They can call the virtual business support center directly and make an appointment. These services are available completely free of charge thanks to the grant offered by the SBA,” she said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 62,000 local entrepreneurs have secured $3 billion to maintain their business, through the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans programs.

To obtain SBTDC services, you may visit alivioempresarial.com or contact the Virtual Business Support Center at (787) 625.1515.

* Editor’s Note: This post is sponsored by the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC).

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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