[House Hearing, 115 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
TECH TALKS: HOW SBA ENTREPRENEURIAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS HAVE EVOLVED
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HEALTH AND TECHNOLOGY
COMMITTEE ON SMALL BUSINESS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FIFTEENTH CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 14, 2017
[GRAPHIC NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Small Business Committee Document Number 115-036
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HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SMALL BUSINESS
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio, Chairman
STEVE KING, Iowa
BLAINE LUETKEMEYER, Missouri
DAVE BRAT, Virginia
AUMUA AMATA COLEMAN RADEWAGEN, American Samoa
STEVE KNIGHT, California
TRENT KELLY, Mississippi
ROD BLUM, Iowa
JAMES COMER, Kentucky
JENNIFFER GONZALEZ-COLON, Puerto Rico
DON BACON, Nebraska
BRIAN FITZPATRICK, Pennsylvania
ROGER MARSHALL, Kansas
RALPH NORMAN, South Carolina
NYDIA VELAZQUEZ, New York, Ranking Member
DWIGHT EVANS, Pennsylvania
STEPHANIE MURPHY, Florida
AL LAWSON, JR., Florida
YVETTE CLARK, New York
JUDY CHU, California
ALMA ADAMS, North Carolina
ADRIANO ESPAILLAT, New York
BRAD SCHNEIDER, Illinois
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Majority Staff Director
Jan Oliver, Majority Deputy Staff Director and Chief Counsel
Adam Minehardt, Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
Hon. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen............................... 1
Hon. Dwight Evans................................................ 2
Ms. Marsha Bailey, Founder and CEO, Women's Economic Ventures,
Santa Maria, CA, testifying on behalf of the Association of
Women's Business Centers....................................... 4
Mr. Scott Daugherty, State Director, North Carolina Small
Business Technology Development Centers, Raleigh, North
Carolina, testifying on behalf of America's SBDC............... 6
Ms. Bridget Weston Pollack, Vice President of Marketing &
Communications, SCORE Association, Herndon, VA................. 7
Mr. Brent Peacock, Director, Veterans Business Outreach Center,
Gulf Coast State College, Panama City, FL...................... 9
Ms. Marsha Bailey, Founder and CEO, Women's Economic
Ventures, Santa Maria, CA, testifying on behalf of the
Association of Women's Business Centers.................... 21
Mr. Scott Daugherty, State Director, North Carolina Small
Business Technology Development Centers, Raleigh, North
Carolina, testifying on behalf of America's SBDC........... 25
Ms. Bridget Weston Pollack, Vice President of Marketing &
Communications, SCORE Association, Herndon, VA............. 31
Mr. Brent Peacock, Director, Veterans Business Outreach
Center, Gulf Coast State College, Panama City, FL.......... 46
Questions for the Record:
Answers for the Record:
Additional Material for the Record:
TECH TALKS: HOW SBA ENTREPRENEURIAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS HAVE EVOLVED
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2017
House of Representatives,
Committee on Small Business,
Subcommittee on Health and Technology,
The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:00 a.m., in
Room 2360, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Aumua Amata
Coleman Radewagen [chairman of the Subcommittee] presiding.
Present: Representatives Chabot, Radewagen, Marshall, and
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Talofa lava. I call today's
Subcommittee on Health and Technology hearing to order.
I would like to thank everyone for joining us today.
Over the last two decades, we have seen technology change
and evolve at an exponential rate. As technology has continued
to advance, businesses of all sizes have adopted various forms
of technology as a way to increase efficiency and decrease
costs. And as this reliance on technology has become more
prevalent, more and more small businesses have found that an
increased use of these technological tools is necessary to
allow their businesses to compete and succeed in the market.
Now more than ever every company needs a website. Marketing
campaigns have moved online. And the ability to accept credit
or debit card payments, sometimes right on the spot, can make
or break a business's bottom line.
In a recent study, 80 percent of small businesses recognize
this increased reliance on technology as a way of allowing
their businesses to succeed, but they also reported that they
were concerned about being able to afford and keep up with
Today, we will look at how the Small Business
Administration's Entrepreneurial Development programs are
serving as a resource to help businesses, small businesses,
develop and advance alongside this new technology. The SBA's
Entrepreneurial Development programs include the Service Corps
of Retired Executives, or SCORE, small business development
centers, women's business centers, and veterans business
outreach centers. Each of the programs offers training and
counseling to both aspiring entrepreneurs and existing small
business owners on how to start, grow, and compete in the
In order to fulfill this mission, each of these
entrepreneurial development programs has adapted its training
and counseling programs to reflect the increased need their
small business clients have for technology-based training and
counseling. Given the large number of training locations and
clients these programs serve, this type of program adjustment
is no small task. In total, the entrepreneurial development
programs have over 1,000 locations across the United States,
including one in my home territory of American Samoa. They also
have collectively trained more than 700,000 clients and advised
or mentored more than 350,000 clients in fiscal year 2016
I look forward to hearing from each of our witnesses on the
progress they have made and challenges their programs continue
to face as they adapt their training and counseling curricula.
I now yield to Ranking Member Evans for his opening
Mr. EVANS. Good morning. And thank you, Madam Chairperson.
The SBA administrates a portfolio of entrepreneurship
development programs, including Small Business Development
Centers, Women's Business Centers, the Service Corps of Retired
Executives, or SCORE, and Veterans Business Outreach Center
programs. These initiatives provide an aspiring entrepreneur
and existing businesses with invaluable counseling, training
and technical assistance, and mentorship.
Whether it is creating a business plan, navigating the
procurement process, marketing a new product, or identifying
networking opportunities, the SBA entrepreneurship development
programs provide an array of services to help small businesses
navigate regulatory obstacles, grow, thrive. And most
importantly, many of these services are easily accessible
Technology has not only changed how we communicate, but
also how businesses conduct it. It should come as no surprise
that small firms are some of the savviest users of technology.
They have found innovative ways to access untapped markets
through low-cost voice and video conferencing. And many small
businesses are utilizing social media to interact with
consumers and markets themselves.
The resources they use also change as technology does. The
SBA entrepreneurship development services must be agile enough
to adapt to new technology, but also assist small businesses in
their adoption efforts. While digital outreach and training is
just one piece of that puzzle, it is one of the most important
The SBA programs are key to helping small business owners
remain competitive in a global market. It is vital that
training and counseling programs reflect the marketing increase
reliance on technology.
All four of the entrepreneurship development programs have
already undertaken efforts to connect to their clients online
by offering distance learning, forums, and personalized online
assistance. Yet challenges remain.
It is critical that as we consider ways to legislatively
strengthen SBA entrepreneurship development programs, we also
do it with technology in mind. We must not just look at the
effect of online knowledge share between resource partners'
internally and external networks. This Committee should also
acknowledge the greater burdens prohibiting the use of
technology by centers.
One such challenge is a broad-based infrastructure that
reaches everyone. Without investment in our infrastructure, it
is inevitable that small firms in rural areas will fall behind
because they lack access to the SBA resources. Poorly connected
hurts the economic development programs and the businesses.
We must also look towards the development of a
cybersecurity network that protects small employers trying to
take advantage of digital communications and markets. It also
is to protect the information conducted by economic development
We can no longer afford to be complacent with security.
That is why I have cosponsored H.R. 3170, the Small Business
Development Center Cyber Training Act of 2017, to provide
resources and tactics to assist in planning for cybersecurity
and defending against cyber risks and cyber attacks.
Today's hearing will focus on the efforts within each of
the SBA programs regarding digital training and outreach. It is
also giving us the chance to hear about the challenges they
face in developing their network and assisting small businesses
adapt to rapidly changing technology.
I look forward to the witnesses' insight and thank you for
being here today.
As you know, Madam Chair, I am sitting in for Ranking
Member Lawson because of the Florida situation that he is in
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. And, yes, he is in our thoughts and
prayers. Thank you, Mr. Evans.
If committee members have an opening statement prepared, I
ask that they be submitted for the record.
I would like to take a moment to explain the timing lights
for you. You will each have 5 minutes to deliver your
testimony. The light will start out as green. When you have 1
minute remaining, the light will turn yellow. Finally, at the
end of your 5 minutes, it will turn red. I ask that you try to
adhere to that time limit.
Our first witness is Ms. Marsha Bailey. Ms. Bailey is the
founder and CEO of Women's Economic Ventures, a women's
business center with locations in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria,
and Ventura, California. In addition to her position with
Women's Economic Ventures, Ms. Bailey also serves as the
chairman of the executive committee at the Association of
Women's Business Centers. Thank you for joining us today, Ms.
Our next witness is Mr. Scott Daugherty. Mr. Daugherty
serves as a state director to the North Carolina Small Business
Technology Development Centers, overseeing 14 SBTDC locations
throughout the State. Mr. Daugherty also serves as the
assistant vice chancellor for extension, engagement, and
economic development at North Carolina State University. Thank
you, Mr. Daugherty for being here today.
Our next witness is Ms. Bridget Weston Pollack. Ms. Weston
Pollack serves as the vice president of marketing and
communications for the SCORE Association. With 12 years of
marketing experience, including 8 years with the SCORE
Association, Ms. Weston Pollack oversees the Association's
branding, marketing, public relations, and communications
efforts. Thank you for being here, Ms. Weston Pollack.
I now yield to our ranking member for the introduction of
the final witness.
Mr. EVANS. Thank you again, Madam Chairperson. It is my
pleasure to introduce Mr. Brenton Peacock, the director of the
Florida Veterans Business Outreach Center. Mr. Peacock is a
business analyst who brings two decades of counseling
experience to apply for his responsibility as the veterans
business counselor and program director, including extensive
marketing experience, well-honed communication skills to assist
clients in various areas of business. He was awarded the
Regional Consultant of the Year for 2014, recipient of the SBA
2014 VBOC of the year, regional impact CBA, certified business
analyst, for the year 2012, CBA of the year 2009.
Since 1990, Mr. Peacock has worked in counseling,
education, and instruction for college-level radio television
broadcasting at the Gulf Coast Community College and teaches
the Boots to Business program at Florida military bases to
retiring, separating military members. Mr. Peacock has a
Bachelor of Science degree from the School of Communications
and Business at Florida State University and is currently a
graduate student at the American Military University School of
Business. Welcome, Mr. Peacock.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. With that, Ms. Bailey, you are
recognized for 5 minutes. You may begin.
STATEMENTS OF MARSHA BAILEY, FOUNDER AND CEO, WOMEN'S ECONOMIC
VENTURES; SCOTT DAUGHERTY, STATE DIRECTOR, NORTH CAROLINA SMALL
BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT CENTERS; BRIDGET WESTON
POLLACK, VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS, SCORE
ASSOCIATION; AND BRENT PEACOCK, DIRECTOR, VETERANS BUSINESS
OUTREACH CENTER, GULF COAST STATE COLLEGE
STATEMENT OF MARSHA BAILEY
Ms. BAILEY. Good morning, Chairwoman Radewagen, Ranking
Member Evans, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. My
name is Marsha Bailey, and I am the chair of the Association of
Women's Business Centers and the founder and CEO of Women's
Economic Ventures, or WEV, a women's business center in
AWBC supports the network of WBCs by providing mentoring
and programming to improve services to women entrepreneurs. In
fact, AWBC's annual leadership conference took place this week
The WBC program is stronger than ever, serving 145,000
entrepreneurs last year, creating 17,000 new businesses and
nearly 25,000 jobs. While not the focus of today's testimony,
the AWBC is grateful to the Committee for advancing legislation
to modernize the WBC program and for your continued support of
Federal funding for women entrepreneurs.
WBCs have worked to leverage advances in technology to
expand our reach and ensure our entrepreneurs are prepared for
a 21st century economy. WBCs view technology from three
perspectives: to enhance and promote our services, to educate
entrepreneurs on how to use technology to manage and grow their
businesses, and to operate our centers more effectively and
I want to stress that despite technology's capacity to
provide options for distance learning, our clients
overwhelmingly prefer in-person training because of the
accountability, the camaraderie, and the support systems that
are created in the classroom. And while business counseling can
be delivered via Skype, it is more likely to be effective and
productive if a relationship is first established between a
business adviser and a client in person.
Technology allows our programs to reach those who may not
otherwise be able to utilize in-person services. Many WBCs
serve large regions, even entire States out of one center.
Webinars and distance learning can fill a gap for rural areas
where clients may live hundreds of miles away from a center.
However, limited access to broadband in rural areas often
limits the viability of such programs.
WBCs have come up with some innovative solutions to this
problem. The WBC at REI Oklahoma established a mobile computer
lab to provide QuickBooks training to clients across the State.
Other WBCs have established stationary labs to help socially
and economically disadvantaged women entrepreneurs bridge the
WBCs use technology to expand our program's reach, but we
also teach entrepreneurs how to use technology in their
businesses. At WEV we bring subject matter experts into our
classrooms to ensure that clients have access to the most up-
to-date information, and we revise our curriculum every 2 years
to keep up with the rapidly changing technology landscape. We
have enhanced our in-person training programs by creating
online assignments and tools in forming study and support
groups through Facebook. We support and promote clients by
posting their business milestones on our own social media
At the national level, AWBC has partnerships with Intuit,
Constant Contact, and Mastercard to provide WBCs with free
access to software and training content. Technology plays an
essential role in WBC operations. CRM programs like Salesforce
simplify and streamline data collection and client
communication. Nearly half of the WBCs, mine included, use
VistaShare's Outcome Tracker, a client database which captures
intake and outcomes data. The program enables entrepreneurs to
request services and access resources directly through a
program portal. Business advisers can enter information into
the database to document the services each client receives.
Many WBCs are direct lenders, addressing the gap in women's
access to capital. Several of us use online applications and
underwriting tools, which give us more time to focus on
ensuring that our borrowers are loan ready.
Rapidly changing technology requires small business owners
to constantly learn new skills to remain competitive. Women's
business centers have often been leaders and innovators in
adopting new technology to better serve the entrepreneurs who
rely on us.
Virtual access to services, technology training for
business owners, and streamlining our administrative systems
are three ways the WBC program has evolved with technology. And
while technology provides many avenues to enhance our programs,
I must stress that it is our people, their talent, their
commitment, and their knowledge that drive the success of our
programs and our small businesses. That combination of
technology and talent will enable the WBC program to serve the
unique needs of women entrepreneurs for years to come.
Thank you for inviting me to testify today, and I would be
happy to answer any questions.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you, Ms. Bailey, for your
And now I would like to welcome Chairman Chabot.
Mr. Daugherty, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF SCOTT DAUGHERTY
Mr. DAUGHERTY. Thank you. I thank the chair and members who
are here with us today. I am pleased to be here on behalf of my
SBTDC, but also on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the
SBDC network nationwide.
The SBTDC was the first T accredited in organized state.
There are now a third of the SBDCs that have become T
accredited. We work with a whole range of companies from small
startups to more mature companies.
It is clear that there are technology adoption trends in
this country that are moving at almost light speed. And it is
tough for smaller companies to keep up. They have got a lot of
concerns. They are concerned about costs. They are concerned
about security. They are concerned about, how do we understand
this and how does it make our business work.
That is where service providers like the SBDCs and our
colleagues can be real important: As the facilitator and
communicator to make decision-making a little bit easier for
our clients to look at the best options. The big survey out,
the four levels of rating in the survey, from basic level of
use of technology to very advanced level.
This is a classic example of what a website looks like at a
basic level. It is essentially a business card. There is no
interactive capability whatsoever. That is fine for somebody to
get a telephone number and maybe an email, but it is
inadequate. As you go down the chain, for greater utilization
of technology in the operations of your business, a couple of
things happen. Those are the businesses that are growing faster
than everybody else in terms of customer count, sales count,
and survivability. It is the pathway for the future for all of
our small companies, and they have got to begin to move forward
in that area.
The variety of surveys, a couple of really telling points
from all the surveys about adoption of technology is, number
one, it is driven by customers. It is not driven by the
business. You don't make the market; you are responding to it.
And that is just very true. And it is not just a millennial
phenomena with people hanging out in coffee shops and never
getting off their phone and this that and the other. People are
much more intensely engaged in utilization of the internet.
So they are driving, and they have expectations that their
businesses will be available to online, and that includes being
able to pay online. A very high percentage of people are
comfortable paying online for goods and services. There are
security concerns now arising, and very publicly because of the
Equifax phenomena, which is pretty devastating. So online
payments, online lending is becoming a bigger and bigger issue,
and it is a concern I would raise with you.
I think the bottom line to it all is that technology is
moving at a much more rapidly increasing pace. Costs are coming
down, but it does mean that there will be continual change in
that marketplace. It is not like my corner restaurant that
still has the 1920 cash register that they ring up, it has got
brass on it, it is cute, but that is the age we live in now,
and all of our businesses are going to have to adapt.
As our SBDC has begun a couple of years ago, we are
inquiring at the intake, what are your technology capabilities,
what do you have, what have you looked at, what should you be
thinking about in the future. And it gives us something to
track now with clients over a period of years.
I would also say there are three issues for you to be
concerned with. One, we need to make better utilization of
these networks to deliver the message required to properly
train our business clients on the opportunities and the
pathways to successful adoption of technology. Secondly, we
need to begin to pay attention to online lending. It is easy,
it is simple, it is very expensive. It is not unusual to see 25
percent interest rate over 4 months. And finally, there is just
a lot of uncertainty about cybersecurity, and somebody is going
to have to take the lead, and I happen to think it might have
to be Congress because of the breadth of the issues.
So thank you very much, and I am pleased to be here, and I
am happy to answer questions.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you for your testimony, Mr.
Ms. Weston Pollack, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF BRIDGET WESTON POLLACK
Ms. WESTON POLLACK. Good morning, Chairman Radewagen,
Congressman Evans, and members of the Small Business
Subcommittee on Health and Technology. My name is Bridget
Weston Pollack, and I am the vice president of marketing and
communications for SCORE. Thank you for the opportunity to
offer testimony on how technology is enhancing SCORE.
First, I want to thank you for 53 years of support for
SCORE. I also want to thank the United States Small Business
Administration for their continued support.
One of SCORE's officially stated values is that clients
matter. Our clients' success is our success. We are proud to
report that, in fiscal year 2016, SCORE helped its clients to
create 54,000 new businesses and add 79,000 new jobs.
Technology is a major contributing factor to this success. At
SCORE, we have harnessed technology to serve entrepreneurs
wherever they are and however they want to be served.
By paying careful attention to the feedback and data
collected from these clients and from the volunteers who serve
them, we continuously streamline our operations and improve our
effectiveness. SCORE is utilizing technology to better serve
and meet the needs of American small business owners. Strategic
use of technology ensures that we remain relevant to future
clients who expect us to be always open and always on.
I want to tell you what small businesses owners are telling
us they need, the true voice of the customer. A survey by SCORE
showed that a quarter of small business owners ranked
technology advice as most helpful to their business success.
SCORE is well positioned to meet these needs with more than
1,300 of our mentors having specific expertise in technology, a
wealth of resources on the SCORE website dedicated to this
topic, and additional local support from partners like SBDCs
and other private sector organizations.
SCORE's web strategy now makes it even easier for our
clients to connect with our mentors and resources, meeting them
wherever they are and however they want to be served. Our
website gives clients the option of browsing our pool of
mentors, filtering them by key words, area of expertise,
industry, language, and location. These mentor profiles allow
clients to select the volunteers whose experience they feel
most benefits them.
SCORE has also developed a mentoring widget that provides
quick access to SCORE mentoring and services on third-party
sites. More than a dozen partners now use this, including the
National Urban League, and users can connect with a SCORE
mentor without ever having to leave that partner's site.
Our video mentoring program connects volunteers with
entrepreneurs in remote locations or whose busy schedules
require flexibility using video conferencing technology such as
Google Hangouts and Skype. Our data shows that video mentoring
clients have the highest level of engagement, rating a 4.3 on a
5-point scale, and that is compared to a 4.15 for our face-to-
SCORE's robust distance learning program reaches audience
members who cannot easily attend a local workshop or who prefer
to learn virtually. Our live educational workshops average more
than 500 attendees each week. Additionally, we offer more than
350 recorded webinars that are available on demand any time on
our website. In total, these workshops drew 120,000 attendees
last year, and we are on track to surpass that by more than 25
percent this year.
We also produced three virtual conferences during the past
year and a half where clients remotely participated in an
online environment with the look and feel of an in-person
conference. The most recent in June of 2017 drew 3,200 live
attendees, and 96.5 percent of those attendees told us the
conference helped them.
SCORE used similar technology to host our inaugural
volunteer virtual conference with 72 percent of SCORE chapters
taking advantage of this training.
Online awareness efforts are critical to fulfilling our
mission, and we aim to centralize those for our chapters
wherever possible. SCORE now provides websites for each
chapter, which has improved chapter website traffic by more
than 29 percent this year. SCORE also centralized social media
for a third of our chapters, with those participating chapters
seeing an 8.9 percent increase in traffic, outperforming
SCORE has successfully integrated technology into every
aspect of our business practices, centralizing and simplifying
administrative tasks. A variety of metrics are available to
help chapters and volunteers in realtime so they can monitor
their performance and serve clients more effectively.
SCORE exists to help entrepreneurs achieve their dreams of
small business success, in turn strengthening the American
economy through business formation and job creation. Technology
enables SCORE to be always open and always on, meeting the
needs of our clients today and in the future and serving them
when and how they want to be served.
I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you again for your attention and for this opportunity to
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you, Ms. Weston Pollack, for
Mr. Peacock, you are now recognized for 5 minutes.
STATEMENT OF BRENT PEACOCK
Mr. PEACOCK. Good morning. I am Brent Peacock, the director
of the Veterans Business Outreach Center at Gulf Coast State
College serving the State of Florida, which is one of the
largest concentrations of military bases and veterans in the
The Veterans Business Outreach Centers, or VBOCs, is the
Small Business Administration's program that provides business
counseling, training, and SBA resource partner referrals to
active duty servicemembers, National Guard and Reserve
personnel, veterans, and military spouses who are interested in
starting or growing a small business.
The SBA funds 20 VBOC centers across the U.S. and in
Hawaii. We appreciate Representative Al Lawson's invitation
today to introduce you to the VBOC's mission and how we use
technology to educate our core clients in the basics and best
practices of business ownership and to help them succeed in
today's business environment. Please review the collateral I
have provided for VBOC impact.
VBOC's primary mission is to conduct entrepreneurial
development training dealing specifically with key issues of
self-employment, meaning owning and succeeding in a business of
their own. Usually, servicemembers meet the VBOC during their
transition from military service in a training program called
Boots to Business. This is a 2-day training workshop to
introduce our target audience, transitioning military, spouses,
and veterans, to the idea of entrepreneurship.
Our second core mission is business counseling. Our
business counselors and SBA resource partners, including small
business development centers, SCORE, and the women's business
center, help our clients in assessing their entrepreneurial
needs and requirements. We help them validate business concepts
through extensive market research, set up a viable business
plan to be executed using a variety of online tools and SBA
resources, help them prepare loan packages as needed, connect
them with outside resources like lenders to launch and grow a
successful business of their own in the civilian world.
Research is an essential element of the process, and VBOCs
provide more than just industry specific data. Our clients are
often high tech warriors. They are familiar with state-of-the-
art technology, weapons systems and the like. But what they
don't know is how to deploy those skills in a civilian business
arena. Their business concept may be what they learned in
military service, but oftentimes, servicemembers choose to go
into a completely unrelated field turning their swords into
proverbial plow shares.
But no matter what their choice, VBOCs are there to guide
them through this entrepreneurial maze from understanding the
ownership options, direct ownership or a franchise, to
understanding who their customers will be, what options they
have in organizing and running their businesses, getting
funded, and becoming operational and competitive and cash flow
positive. This is our mission.
Your interest is in the role technology and online business
tools play in today's business arena. For us, it begins with
the delivery of training and business counseling. VBOCs,
working with other SBA resource partners, can target
entrepreneurial training projects and counseling sessions
tailored exclusively to address the needs and concerns of the
veteran entrepreneur with a wealth of online tools.
VBOCs help our clients identify their plan with feasibility
studies, business plan assistance, reviews of financial
statements, and assisting with strategic development as with
such needs as identifying markets. From franchising to
international marketing, from electronic sales with Square and
small business recordkeeping like QuickBooks, to the nuances of
international trade and government contracting, all of these
resources are now online tools we can use every day to help
your constituents and our clients.
You know, not long ago, we were limited to face-to-face
meetings and hard cover books. But now, thanks to the rapid
pace of technology and online learning, we can Skype, use
webinars, and employ online resources to help our clients in a
day. Technology has made a significant impact on our
productivity and effectiveness as a government-funded entity.
The SBA Offices of Veteran Business Development maintain
online access to ever-changing materials. For deployed
servicemembers who don't have access to military installation,
the Department of Defense provides Joint Knowledge Online, or
JKO, for continuous career development and joint knowledge
readiness for personnel, including combat commands, combat
support agencies abroad. Without these, our servicemembers may
be left behind.
Websites are also critical no-cost resources for our
civilian and military clients. SBA.gov is a website and
learning tool with a wealth of information for all aspects of
business from start to growth. It is well organized, easy to
understand, and it is a learning center with over 50 topics
anyone can view as often as they like. Like Vil, who, when she
returns home from Afghanistan, will open that coffee shop and
bakery, and spouses like Torrance, who are keeping the home
fires burning and running a home-based business of their own.
Both need online tools like the SBA website and ours, VBOC.org,
for resources they need to move ahead, websites every business
owner will need to get their business off the ground, from the
IRS to domains for the Secretary of State's offices and local
resources. Having them available electronically can help our
constituents, and it saves operational costs.
Market research is critical, and assessing feasibility of
one's idea and creating a business plan is viable today. The
days of pouring over books in the library are long gone.
Today's warriors expect access to data from their smartphone
and tablets. The days of being tethered to the restraints of
libraries and outdated retails are over.
Like many small businesses and government agencies from the
local to the Federal, we use technology to manage operations,
track activities, and use this data to expand our reach and
create our efficacy. Our organization uses an electronic client
management system called Neoserra. Through this system, we can
track performance and communicate with our clients, as well as
allow them to set up their online training.
In VBOC 2.0, the SBA's Office of Veteran Business
Development promotes two new online business platforms:
LivePlan and GrowthWheel. The goal is to facilitate the flow of
information and track the assistance a client can receive from
multiple SBA resources. Not only can we counsel the client in
realtime, we can share and cocounsel and track clients with our
SBA resource partners. For example, if a client was referred by
a VBOC to a women's business center, this platform will allow
us to track the referral and work together seamlessly to help
that client. Then if the same client was referred to a lender
and that referral resulted in a loan, we can track that too.
I could continue, but you understand the importance of
technology and online communication and how it is essential for
elected officials like you and government agencies like ours to
embrace it. Information and business now move at the speed of
light, and technology that our Nation has helped pioneer and
our servicemembers have helped to defend in the past, future,
and the present will help us as entrepreneurs and warriors who
are converting to entrepreneurs.
I thank you for this opportunity and welcome any questions.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you, Mr. Peacock.
I now recognize myself for 5 minutes of questions.
There is a small business development center located at the
American Samoa Community College; however, there are no women's
business centers, SCORE chapter locations, or veterans business
outreach centers within the territories. How are each of your
programs using technology to reach clients who are located in
areas without brick and mortar training locations? Ms. Bailey?
Ms. BAILEY. So I will say I believe we did have a women's
business center in American Samoa at one point. And I want to
say that one of the challenges for some of the women's business
centers has been this issue of long-term sustainability, and it
is one of the issues that the AWBC is directly addressing
through a recent grant we got from JPMorgan Chase where we are
studying best practices in organizational management and
development in program delivery so that we can help those
organizations be more sustainable in the long term. I am not
personally familiar with what programs might be available
online to clients in American Samoa.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you.
Mr. DAUGHERTY. Yes. Thank you. We make very active use of
interactive video capabilities. They are in our offices across
the State, including in very rural areas of North Carolina. We
actually are also finalizing an arrangement with cooperative
extension, which in our State has 100 offices, one in each
county. Very accessible to utilize the capabilities of that
much more fully.
It is mostly used, I might say, not for the internal intake
with a client, but for the relationships with specialists on
staff in procurement, in technology, commercialization, those
kinds of areas, where we have more limited staff, but we can
make very good use out of technology to interact with clients.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Ms. Weston Pollack?
Ms. WESTON POLLACK. Thank you for the question. Yes, SCORE
does not have a physical presence in American Samoa, but we do
feel that a number of our virtual resources can definitely fill
a gap in the meantime. We have over 450 video mentors that are
available through Google Hangouts and Skype. Thousands of our
mentors also use email and phone, so that is another way that
we can communicate across the Nation.
With over 10,000 volunteers in this connected network, we
do know that we have the ability to bring in our mentors and
co-mentor or have a wealth of resources available to serve the
people in American Samoa. We also have 350 online workshops
that are available, and those have been highly successful. And
we do have the thousands of resources on our website to help
facilitate those discussions and get the people the answers
that they need for whatever their business needs are.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you.
Mr. PEACOCK. We provide the Boots to Business training to
every military base, CONUS and no CONUS. And anywhere that
there would be a military base, we have an actual physical
presence. We cover Guam and Hawaii, and with technology, they
have the access of being able to reach out to SBA websites and
other resource partners to get training and consulting. But we
would like to have a physical presence to cover every place.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you. And as a followup, what
type of marketing strategies are you using to ensure that
people in areas without training locations near them know these
programs are available?
Ms. BAILEY. You know, I am glad you asked that. That was
exactly what my next point was going to be. Many of the
organizations have limited marketing budgets. And so if you are
trying to provide services in an area where you don't have a
physical presence, you lack that kind of word-of-mouth tool
that is so important to so many centers.
So many of us do, I think probably all of us use social
media for marketing, but we also use, you know, when you have a
physical location, especially trying to reach out to small
businesses, the kinds of networking, in-person networking kinds
of activities that we do are really invaluable to getting into
that small business market.
So I think probably, you know, in terms of cost
effectiveness, it really is the online kind of marketing, but
you have to know to target a community in order to be
successful in that community. And, frankly, a lot of women's
business centers just don't have the budgets to do that.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Mr. Daugherty?
Mr. DAUGHERTY. I think there are three primary ways to get
reach into the communities. Number one is, we are a 35-year old
program, and we have relationships, in-depth relationships in
communities, all 100 counties, chambers of commerce, regional
economic development organizations. They have our number and
email address memorized. They are a great convenor of small
groups as we have topics we want to bring to attention. We
publish a lot of things that are online and in print copy about
issues of importance to small companies. Huge distributions in
State business magazines and chamber of commerce publications
all across the State. So it is a combination of print, online
material, and personalized interaction.
I might say that we have a tier system of counties. You
don't want to be a Tier I county in our State. That means you
are at the bottom in terms of economics, and regrettably, we
have got two dozen of those. Those are high impact priority
counties for us. Each center that serves that region better
have a lot of clients in those counties, because that is where
it really makes a difference, and we track it and score them.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Ms. Weston Pollack?
Ms. WESTON POLLACK. Thank you for the question. I think
there are really two main factors to helping get the word out
about SCORE and have more people use our services. Online
presence is critical. We need to be where our clients and
potential clients are, and we do that through social media,
through our web presence using a search engine optimization
strategy. We have over 5 million visitors to our website, and
that increases by at least 10 percent each year by adding
content that people are looking for to help their businesses.
We then push that out, of course, through social media,
through limited advertising, and we really do focus on
geotargeting for areas that we know can most benefit from these
resources. Of course, partnerships are important as well. Like
my colleagues at this table, we know that in order to reach
those people, we need to form these partnerships and have a
I mentioned our widget in our testimony, and what that does
is allows partners to promote SCORE mentoring without having to
really lift a finger and get people to mentoring more quickly.
We just recently formed a partnership with the U.S. Department
of Agriculture to reach rural, you know, entrepreneurs and
farmers, and we look for more partnerships like that to spread
the word to their audiences and people who can benefit from
SCORE services. So we will continue to focus on that.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Mr. Peacock?
Mr. PEACOCK. Well, as you know, veterans can be anywhere.
And no matter where they are, we provide services to them and
through the use of online media, specifically Facebook, where
we do provide content every day. I notice that there are some
visitors from the American Samoa islands, as well as everywhere
else, that have access to contacting me, if they choose to, or
just reading best practices provided by the SBA or somewhere
else where I get content. So that makes me feel better that we
are actually reaching out. And if someone were to call me from
that particular area, I would help them, and I don't think my
leadership would have any trouble with that.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you.
Now I have a question for Ms. Bailey. Nationally,
throughout all WBCs, what are the most common training programs
offered on technology, and how have these programs benefited
Ms. BAILEY. So I think most of us integrate those programs,
you know, into our core training programs. Several WBCs do
provide specific training workshops. They tend to be a longer
term training. My own program, our CORE training program, is a
14-week, 54-hour business planning program. So there is a large
section on technology about the, you know, importance of a
website, social media presence, all the things that we have
For our ongoing consulting program where we work with
established businesses, this is continually part of their
ongoing training, I would say. The representatives from SCORE
stated their survey outcomes about the need for knowledge
around technology, and that certainly is a big need. I would
say the other biggest need that our clients have is really for
continuing education on business finance.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Mr. Daugherty, throughout your
testimony, you discuss the importance of small businesses
embracing technology in order to remain competitive and succeed
in the marketplace. What current training opportunities do
SBDCs and SBTDCs offer to small businesses on the various uses
and forms of technology they may need to be successful?
Mr. DAUGHERTY. I have got a red light so--what we use is we
use partner channels for outreach and educational programs. We
are blessed by having a 58-community college system in our
State. We have 100 counties, so a few counties are served by
the college. They do enormous amounts of continuing education
and training, and we have a couple of standard products focused
on technology adoption, opportunities, and pitfalls that are
routinely offered through those. Those are likely to be offered
three or four times per quarter in each of the community
colleges. It is a great way to get reach.
And they are really a grassroots community-focused training
resource. That is where the local mom-and-pop store is likely
to go to get continuing education. They are not going to the
university campus. So it gives us really good reach. And we are
constantly monitoring with our own clients what is working for
them so that we flavor the training opportunity with the
experience of the users of the training.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. I have got a question for Mr. Brent
Peacock. In your testimony, you mentioned that an extensive
technological background is common among your clients, as many
of them have been trained in complex military systems. What
strategies are VBOCs using to translate this knowledge and
skill into beneficial business strategies?
Mr. PEACOCK. Thank you. Oftentimes, the technology that
they deploy are far more advanced than anything that we are
using in the civilian marketplace. But to be able to help them
to understand the need for technology in their business is
important and how to kind of adapt that technology to business
One of the things that we find with working with military
members, especially those who are newly separating, is trying
to slow them down and get them to focus on understanding their
market. And that kind of technology or that kind of
understanding is based on technology to do research and find
out who their customers really are and find out who their
So as they come to us with great technological expertise,
we are very fortunate that they understand systems, that they
can do many things in combat that are technical, and so it is
not like maybe it was before. You know that you have a
technologically advanced clientele, and you try to meet them at
that same level by meeting with them and speaking with them in
a technologically advanced way.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. And, Ms. Weston Pollack, your
testimony references the SCORE core values, one of which is
experience matters. How has volunteer experience benefited your
clients with regard to mentoring on technology-related issues?
Ms. WESTON POLLACK. Thank you for that question. We have
over 10,000 volunteers that serve our clients throughout the
country, and we are really proud of what we have looked at in
terms of our performance and impact on the economy.
One of the ways we measure how our volunteers are impacting
our clients is our net promoter score. That measures how happy
people are with our services and if they are willing to
recommend score. Last year, in fiscal year 2016, SCORE's NPS
was 82.26. And just for context sake, 50 is considered
excellent and 70 is considered world class. So we see that our
volunteers are providing a high-quality service to our clients.
We do have a learning management system for our volunteers.
They, like our clients, are interested in continuing education
and learning and growing and staying on top of business trends.
That system has 23 modules, and our volunteers do take
advantage of that to make sure that they stay on top of the
technology trend to be able to best inform and advise the
clients that they see.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you.
Ms. Bailey, your testimony notes that WBCs usually share
best practices related to training and counseling through the
AWBC conference once a year. Are there any formal means of
information sharing between centers outside of the annual
conference? And as a followup, do you believe that formalized
information sharing could benefit WBCs by minimizing
duplication of efforts?
Ms. BAILEY. Absolutely. I am going to address the second
part first. One of the challenges with the WBC program is that
every WBC is different. They really evolve to meet the unique
needs of their own communities. And so as you can imagine, that
makes it difficult to kind of standardize the kinds of
trainings. Regardless of that, particularly for our new WBCs or
new WBC directors, we find that there is just a real thirst for
curriculum, for best practices around organizational
management, standard operating procedures, board development,
fundraising, all of those issues that are really critical to
running a sustainable center.
So we do have--we have a monthly newsletter in which we
highlight best practices. And then we have, on our website, we
have a resource area where we have, for instance, forms and
documents and procedures that are free to our members to
download. So, yeah, that is a critical part. And one of the
things we are trying to accomplish through the grant that we
have from JPMorgan Chase is a way to better share and replicate
some of those best practices.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Okay. And, Mr. Daugherty, as the
State director of the North Carolina SBTDC system, you oversee
multiple training locations throughout the State. How are best
practices or successful training strategies shared within your
State? And as a followup, beyond the North Carolina SBTDC
system, what type of information-sharing strategies do you use
to work with other SBDCs?
Mr. DAUGHERTY. Our SBTDC is a pretty integrated system. We
are highly interactive. We have two to three major training
activities a year for all professional staff. We have a
professional development committee that monitors programs that
have worked well from one recent center to another and
recommend adoption of those and deployment throughout our
I think a good example of cross-sharing of ideas among
States is that we have a very active group of States in the
southeast. The State directors and associates meet twice a
year. It is not complaining about Washington. It is not
complaining about our host. It is entirely focused on how do we
do our job better? Who has got a great program? Who has got a
great way of reaching clients and having an impact? And that
has resulted in a lot of transfer of programmatic ideas from
one State to the other.
We have also looked at that as a platform for training of
our own staffs regionally, certified economic development
finance professional courses, very intense. You need to have
multiple States in order to get a big enough class. That is a
good example of pulling together regionally a group, and it has
worked really well in terms of just cross-fertilization on a
day-to-day basis with your colleagues.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you.
Ms. Weston Pollack, the SCORE Association's administrative
use of technology is quite extensive. Your testimony lists the
use of metrics collection software, a learning management
system, and client relationship management software, amongst
others. How has SCORE found these forms of technology
beneficial both administratively and to clients?
Ms. WESTON POLLACK. Well, thank you for the question. They
are tremendously beneficial. One, it allows us to gather more
feedback and data than we ever have before. Several years ago,
we did make the decision to be data driven, and we knew that we
needed to learn more from our clients to better serve them and
help them have a better experience. So as we gather that data,
we are able to be more nimble and agile and serve them, again,
wherever they are and however they would like to be served.
When we see that there is something in the data that is
telling us they may not be as happy with our service, we can
address it very quickly. As opposed to waiting and, you know,
maybe hearing about it on Facebook or something like that, we
can address it right away, and that is one of the great things
of having this reporting.
Our reporting can also dig down to the individual volunteer
level, so we can see how engaged a volunteer is, how engaged
they are with each of their clients, and then gather best
practices from those mentors that are performing and help those
who may need some extra training. And we do regularly use those
to make sure that we are continuously improving our operations.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you.
Mr. Peacock, you spoke briefly about SBA's Office of
Veterans Business Development Initiative, VBOC 2.0, which
allows for increased flow of information between VBOCs and the
other SBA ED programs to track client referrals. How is this
system expected to work? Will all ED programs be required to
participate? And what challenges, if any, do you anticipate
with the implementation of this program, given its size and
scope? And how are VBOCs actively working to mitigate these
issues in advance?
Mr. PEACOCK. We think that there really shouldn't be any
problems. What it is going to allow us to do is to provide best
practices with all of our resource partners and to allow
One thing about VBOCs is we are centrally located. I cover
the entire State of Florida. But if there is an SBDC in Orlando
and a client is trying to buy a restaurant or something, the
best practice is to find counseling that is local, because the
best counseling is local. So maybe the SBDC or women's business
center SCORE chapter might know of a realtor or a banker or
somebody who knows local rules and laws, so we can refer to
them and that way we can track all that together. As our main
drive is to be there at the boots on the ground when that
veteran is separating, to teach the Boots to Business program
and also to share some of the counseling duties with our
resource partner network and not to create something that is
already being done, but to be able to share best practices with
the other VBOCs and the other resource partners statewide.
And the new platforms that we are introducing will allow
that type of co-counseling, which I think is going to be really
beneficial to tracking and keeping up with and assisting that
client in the best way. And we have to remember, it really is
all about that veteran, that military spouse, that active duty
servicemember who wants to exit military service and be as
productive in civilian life as he or she was in the military
service. So by bringing in all the other resource partners, we
are really helping them. And I think that is the key to what we
are doing, and I think my colleagues will agree.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Okay. Thank you.
Ms. Bailey, you discussed the importance of AWBC or WBC
partnerships with outside companies such as Intuit or
Mastercard as a critical way of adopting technology into
training curricula. What does the process of establishing a
partnership like this look like? And are these partnerships
common among WBCs nationwide?
Ms. BAILEY. So the partnerships that AWBC has created
benefit all of our WBCs. So, for instance, with Intuit, they
provide our WBCs with free licenses for QuickBooks and the
training curriculum so that they can train their clients how to
use QuickBooks. So it is a great benefit to all of the WBCs.
Mastercard created webinars called Master Your Card. So it
helps our clients, especially retail clients who need to look
at how to accept credit cards, how to negotiate, you know, the
best deals with merchant services and things to really kind of
understand that whole process and the importance of it
Constant Contact, again, they provide free email, bulk
email services to all of our WBCs so that they can send out up
to 10,000 free emails every month. So this is really important
for the newsletters that each of our centers do on their own,
as well as the other kinds of, you know, communications and
program content that each center uses.
So we are always looking for relationships that we can
negotiate on behalf of all the WBCs, because as you can
imagine, many WBCs don't have access to those resources, you
know, in their area. So as the AWBC, if we can do that on their
behalf, then that is a benefit to all. Some of them can also
use some of those products, the value of some of those products
to make some of their in kind match.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Mr. Daugherty, America's SBDC
administers the peer-based national accreditation program for
SBDCs on behalf of the Small Business Administration. Is there
any aspect of this accreditation process that requires SBDCs to
use technology administratively or to offer technological
training to its clients?
Mr. DAUGHERTY. Good question. Thank you. The accreditation
process is an incredibly rich opportunity for SBDCs to
continuously improve their operations. That is really the
intent. National standards, expectations with respect to type
and quality of services that are provided. And it is a peer-
driven process, so you go through review every 5 years with
multiple team members looking at your operations against a set
of standards. So it is not just coming in and saying, I don't
like that, I do like this. But there are standards.
What that process does is it oftentimes unearths really
unique, interesting initiatives being tried in one State that
need to be replicated in other States. And those get
communicated first among the accreditation committee, which is
quite a large number of States that participate. And it gives
our association opportunities then to communicate about some of
the rich findings that are unique in the accreditation review
process. And it is a talking point for State directors. We are
committed to that process, and the best way to benefit from it
is learn from what other people are doing and adopt, steal,
replicate programmatic activities. That is the American way.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Thank you.
Ms. Weston Pollack, the SCORE Association website offers
access to numerous live and recorded webinars in addition to 50
courses on demand. What is the benefit to offering these online
training opportunities? And what did the process of developing
this digital training infrastructure look like?
Ms. WESTON POLLACK. Thank you for that question. You know,
it took us years to develop this, but I really do feel we have
a high quality, best practice webinar program in place today.
When we started in 2012, we were seeing only a few hundred
attendees. And as I mentioned in my testimony, we now see over
120,000 attendees who take advantage of these webinars.
Some of the benefits to the clients are that many people
today prefer to learn virtually. They are busy, especially
business owners. They can't necessarily leave their business
and attend a 3-hour workshop, but they can sit there at 1 a.m.,
when their brains are going, and take advantage of an on-demand
webinar about a specific topic that they are interested in. So
we do make sure that we cover all of those topics that they
tell us they need. We survey after each webinar to ask them
what other topics they would want, and then continue to hone
our curriculum based on that feedback.
We use mentors who have that expertise to deliver some of
that content. We also have corporate partners in areas like
Intuit or Mastercard that have expertise in those areas, and we
ask them to be guest presenters. And then, of course, we use
that as a program to cross-sell our mentoring services. And I
am pleased to say that 28 percent of the people in general who
attend a webinar then go and seek a mentor.
So we really do see it as something to reach them, get them
to start thinking about whatever it is to help their business,
and then to go seek out a SCORE mentor or another person who
can help them in their business.
We share them out through email. We promote them on social
media, and we do leverage our relationship with the SBA to
promote our webinars as well to get this great reach. And,
again, I am really pleased that those who do take advantage of
our webinars are highly engaged. We do an annual survey, as I
mentioned, and our mentoring clients see 4.15 to 4.3
engagement, and our webinar numbers are pretty high up there as
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. And, Mr. Peacock, what are some
examples of ways in which VBOCs have used webinars or a
combination of online resources, in Skype or email, to
successfully reach clients that are not geographically located
near a center?
Mr. PEACOCK. Thank you. We are allowed to use Skype or
telephone or other technology to spend hours talking with
clients. We have clients who are interested in government
contracting, for instance, and I have a colleague who has an
expertise basis in that. And I have seen him spend hours on
either Skype or telephone just explaining the process of how to
register in the system for award management, who to see, who
not to see, how to identify your NAICS codes, and all these
kinds of things like this. And he will be doing it for half a
day. And that person might be in Tampa. And yet what they learn
is as valuable as if they were sitting right in their office.
I used to say a lot of times when I would go out and do
workshops, you know, don't have to come and see me. Those days
are over. I am not that much to look at, and our coffee is
pretty good, but it is not worth your time to drive up there. I
will spend the entire day on the phone with you, if that is
what you need, or Skype, or through a series of emails back and
forth. Oftentimes, I will have an opening telephone or Skype
conversation to kind of introduce what they are looking for and
how we can help them, and then I will give them an assignment.
Email, this is what I want to you do before the 15th of next
month. You know, let's say that they are buying a retail space,
identify the price of it, have a business valuation done, and
contact these three lenders. And then I will call you back.
The next month. Okay. You have done that, let's start
looking at what you have to do to be operational. Get up with
the Department of Commerce, or whatever you need to do, to get
the certifications and step them through. And after a while
they will go, you know what, I am running a business. And it is
kind of funny, because it is done in such incremental steps
that you don't notice it. And it is the old take a bite of the
elephant, one bite at a time, if you like eating elephants. And
that is the best way to do it. One bite at a time so it is not
And one thing with veterans and military people is they do
have the tendency to charge and take the hill right now. And
often I would say, whoa, buddy, you can't do this by Thursday.
This is going to take months. This is going to take some time.
And I am going to help you. And as time goes by, as I said,
they realize, we did it. And my response is, no, sir. You did
it. I am glad I was there to help.
Chairwoman RADEWAGEN. Okay. Well, I would like to thank
each of the witnesses for being here today and for the great
work you do for our country's developing small businesses.
It is clear that the SBAs entrepreneurial development
programs are making great strides towards adapting their
training and counseling programs to reflect small businesses'
increased reliance on technology.
This Committee recognizes the challenges that each of your
programs face and applauds your continued efforts to offer your
clients with the resources they need to be successful.
Now I ask unanimous consent that members have 5 legislative
days to submit statements and supporting materials for the
Without objection, so ordered. We are adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:09 a.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Testimony of Marsha Bailey: Tech Talks: How SBA
Entrepreneurial Development Programs Have Evolved with
Good morning. Chairwoman Radewagen, Ranking Member Lawson,
and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for
the opportunity to testify before you today. My name is Marsha
Bailey, and I am Chair of the Association of Women's Business
Centers as well as the founder, president and CEO of Women's
Economic Ventures, a women's business center located in
The Association of Women's Business Centers (AWBC) supports
the national network of Women's Business Centers (WBCs) like
mine by providing mentoring, programming, and advocacy with the
goal of improving services to women entrepreneurs. It is
fortunate we hold this hearing today as AWBC is currently
convening its 2017 Leadership Conference here in Washington--an
annual opportunity to share best practices and strengthen the
As you know, the WBC program is a public-private
partnership with more than 25 years of success in providing
training, counseling, mentoring, and access to capital to women
entrepreneurs across the country. Our network reaches into
communities--urban and rural alike--to assist America's job
creators in launching and growing their own businesses.
Centers like Women's Economic Ventures (WEV) are focused on
being an effective and efficient resource for one of the
fastest growing sectors of the economy. The program's
collective efforts leave an enormous footprint of successful
business owners and job creators. In fiscal year 2016, our
centers reached more than 145,000 clients and conducted over
93,000 hours of counseling and over 15,000 training sessions in
over 35 languages. This translated into more than 17,000 new
businesses.\1\ In 2015, the most recent data available, WBCs
assisted with nearly $429 million in private capital infusion
and last year helped to secure nearly $40 million in government
contracts for women-owned businesses, ultimately creating
nearly 25,000 jobs.\2\
\1\ Fiscal year 2016 data provided to AWBC on request by SBA and to
be formally published in the FY18 Budget Justification to Congress.
Language details found in SBA OED 2015 Report, p. 36 (see footnote 2).
\2\ US Small Business Administration. Office of Entrepreneurial
Development 2015 Year in Review, p. 39. Available online at https://
pdf. Hereafter SBA OED 2015 Report. Federal contracting data provided
by SBA via Entrepreneurial Development Management Information System
While not the focus of today's testimony, AWBC and center
directors across the country applaud this Committee for
advancing legislation modernizing the WBC program and for your
continued support of federal funding for women entrepreneurs.
Today's topic is a timely one. As technology has
proliferated over the decades, WBCs have worked to leverage
these advancements to expand our reach and ensure our
entrepreneurs are prepared for a 21st century economy. In that
sense, the dedicated staff at WBCs view technology in three
ways: we use technology to enhance our trainings and reach into
the community, we educate entrepreneurs on how to leverage
technology in conjunction with their business plans, and
finally, we use technology administratively to operate more
efficiently and collect client data to measure our impact and
I will use the rest of my time today to talk about how some
of our centers across the country have used evolving technology
to the benefit of entrepreneurs. I cannot overstate, however,
the importance of in-person, people-to-people interactions in
the context of training and counseling. We have found that
clients overwhelmingly prefer in-person training because of the
accountability, camaraderie, and support systems that are
created in the classroom. In one of WEV's own programs, Thrive
in Five, we ensure that consulting begins in-person to
establish a relationship that will be critical to an open
dialogue about strengthening the business.
Nonetheless, advancements in technology have allowed our
training and counseling programs to evolve and to reach those
that may not otherwise be able to utilize our in-person
services. Given the limitations in the size of the program due
to funding constraints, some clients of WBCs lie several
hundred miles away from their nearest women's business center.
This is where technology such as webinars allow us to provide
our services to many more individuals than in the past.
Technology allowing for distance-learning fills a gap in needs
in rural areas in particular, where in-person services are
simply not an option. Consulting clients who meet with a
business advisor regularly through WEV's long-term Thrive in
Five program, may use tools such as Skype to meet with their
advisor once the relationship has been established. Some WBCs
have established computer labs, both stationary and mobile,
which are particularly important for rural areas where access
to broadband is not always available. One example of this is
REI Women's Business Center in Oklahoma, which uses a mobile
computer laboratory to provide QuickBooks training to clients
across the state.
Not only do WBCs use technology to reach rural clients and
for teaching and training purposes, but we also spend a good
amount of time teaching the use of technology to our clients. A
basic example is WEV's partnership with other local adult
education and job training programs to help clients improve
their computer skills. There are so many tools out there to
help small business owners and it is the job of WBCs to bring
those to the attention of local entrepreneurs and to help train
them in the use of those tools.
WEV uses a proprietary curriculum for our business training
program which is revised every two years. We continue to update
training content related to technology, e.g. the critical
importance of having a website, social media presence, online
sales (when relevant) and payment systems, point of sales and
customer relationship management tools. Our consulting program
for existing businesses requires clients to use a bookkeeping
system such as QuickBooks so that financial reports can be
reviewed regularly by business advisors.
Many WBCs, use off-the-shelf products such as LivePlan
online business planning software, DreamBuilder, CoreFour,
Kauffman FastTrac, and FDIC's MoneySmart curriculum. WEV is
considering Palo Alto software's LivePlan as a complement to
our curriculum and commercial products are updated regularly to
reflect the latest advancements in technology.
Notably, WBC clients represent a broad socio-economic
spectrum. Some of them don't have computers at home or email
addresses. A few years ago, WEV required all clients to have
email addresses and we integrated assignments into our
curriculum that required participants to go online to complete
assignments. We have also created online study/support groups
through Facebook. We use our own Facebook account to promote
client business openings, milestones, and events.
At the national level, AWBC has a partnership with Intuit,
which provides access to QuickBooks training and software
through WBCs. Similarly, AWBC partnered with email service
Constant Contact, which provides free bulk email services to
WBCs. AWBC also has a partnership with MasterCard to help
provide business owners with the knowledge to choose and
negotiate the best technology options for accepting credit
cards through their ``Master Your Card'' webinar series.
Both through our association and at individual centers like
my own, these partnerships are critical ways to adopt the
latest technology into our curricula. Our adoption of
technology is also critical for center operations. Technology
allows us to minimize administrative requirements and focus
energy on training and counseling. Moreover, data collection
has been simplified allowing the WBC program to quantify its
impact more accurately than ever.
Despite all the new technologies to support our internal
requirements, the paperwork burden on individual centers is
needlessly exacerbated. AWBC hopes to work with this Committee
to identify and eliminate unnecessary administrative
requirements that limit the ability of centers like mine to
focus on entrepreneurs.
The advent of the internet, email, and cell phones more
than a decade ago ensured that all businesses would need to
change. I am proud to say that WBCs have adopted new technology
for the betterment of the entrepreneurs that rely on us. The
use of virtual access to centers, the training of technology to
benefit business owners, and the internal modernization of our
administrative systems are three ways the WBC program has
evolved with technology.
While these elements are important to the program's past
and future success, I must stress that the driver of our impact
is our people. The dedicated and knowledgeable staff at centers
across the country have assisted business and job creation in
innumerable ways. Women's Economic Ventures and our national
advocate, the Association of Women's Business Centers, are
confident that our continued embrace of technology in
conjunction with our collective commitment to serve
entrepreneurs will keep the program thriving for years to come.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today, I am
pleased to answer any of your questions.
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Digital Training and Counseling for SBA Entrepreneurial
Development Programs, a VBOC Perspective
Good morning, I am Brent Peacock. I am the director of the
Veterans Business Outreach Center serving the state of Florida
which has one of the largest concentration of military bases
and veterans in the US. The Veterans Business Outreach Center
or V-BOC is the Small Business Administrations program that
provides business training, counseling and SBA resource partner
referrals to active duty service members, National Guard &
Reserve personnel, veterans, and military spouses interested in
starting or growing a small business. The SBA funds 20 V-BOCs
centers across the US and in Hawaii. We certainly appreciate
Representative Al Lawson's invitation today to introduce you to
the V-BOC's mission and how we use technology to educate our
core clients in the basics and best practice of business
ownership to help them succeed in today's business environment.
VBOCs primary mission is to conduct entrepreneurial
development training dealing specifically with the key issues
of self-employment, meaning owning and succeeding in a business
of their own. Usually service members meet the VBOC during
their transition from the military service in a training
program called Boot to Business. This is a two-day training
workshop to introduce our target audience--transitioning
military, spouses and veterans--to the idea of
Our second core mission is business counseling. Our
business counselors and SBA resource partners including Small
Business Development Centers, SCORE volunteer mentors, and
Women's Business Centers help our clients in assessing their
entrepreneurial needs and requirements. We help them validate
their business concept through extensive market research,
develop a viable business plan using a variety of online tools
and SBA resources, help them prepare business loan packages, as
needed, and connect them with the outside resources like
lenders to launch and grow a business of their own in the
Research is an essential element of this process and VBOC's
provide more than just industry specific data. Our clients are
very often high tech warriors. They are familiar with state of
the art technology, weapons systems and the like. What they
don't know is how to deploy their skills in the civilian
business arena. Their business concept may use what they know
from their military service. But oftentimes, service members
choose to go in a completely unrelated field, turning their
swords to proverbial plowshares. No matter what their choice,
VBOC's are there to guide them through the entrepreneurial
maze. From understanding their ownership options--direct
ownership or a franchise, to understanding who their customers
will be, what options they have in organizing and running their
business, getting funded, and becoming operational and
competitive and cash flow positive, this is our mission.
Your interest is in the role technology and online business
tools play in today's small business arena. For us, it begins
with our delivery of training and business counseling. VBOC's,
working with other SBA resource partners, can target
entrepreneurial training projects and counseling sessions
tailored specifically to address the needs and concerns of the
veteran entrepreneur with a wealth of online tools. VBOCs help
our clients with feasibility studies, business plan
assessments, reviews of financial statements, and assisting
with strategic development such as identifying new markets.
From franchising to Internet marketing, from electronic sales
with Square and small business record-keeping like QuickBooks,
to the nuances of international trade and government
contracting, all of these resources are now online tools we can
use every day to help your constituents and our clients. Not
that long ago, we were limited to face-to-face meetings and
hard cover books. Thanks to the rapid pace of technology and
online learning, we can Skype, use webinars, and employ online
resources to help dozens of clients in a day. Technology has
made a significant impact on our productivity and effectiveness
as a government funded entity.
The SBA's Office of Veterans Business Development maintains
a webpage that allows us, the VBOC and other instructors the
ability to access Boots to Business instructor tools and
training videos online to stay current with ever-changing
materials and resources. The Boots to Business curriculum is
also offered online for attendees. They can download the
materials before attending class or revisit the materials
whenever they wish after class.
For deployed service members who do not have access to a
military installation offering transition programs, the
Department of Defense (DoD) provides the Joint Knowledge Online
resource, J-KO for short, for continuous, career-long
development of joint knowledge and readiness for military
personnel, including Combatant Commands and Combat Support
Agencies abroad. Without online training, these service members
might be left behind.
Websites are a critical, no-cost resource for our civilians
and military clients. SBA.gov is an outstanding website and
learning tool. It's a wealth of information on all aspects of
business from start to growth, that is well organized and easy
to understand. Its Learning Center has over 50 topics that
anyone can view whenever and as often as they like. For active
duty personnel and busy aspiring entrepreneurs, this
flexibility is critical. Think of the troops deployed abroad
with ambitions of entrepreneurship when they turn home, like
Vil who when she returns from Afghanistan will open that coffee
shop and bakery, and spouses like Torrance who are keeping the
home fires burning and running a home-based business of their
own. Both need online tools like the SBA website and ours,
VBOC.org, for resources whenever and wherever they want to
access them. Our Florida Start-up Checklist is a step by step
guide on our website for aspiring entrepreneurs in my home
state of Florida, a Microsoft Word document with live links to
the websites every business owner will need to get their
business off the ground, from the IRS to website domain names
to the Secretary of State's offices and to local resources.
Having these electronic resources not only helps your
constituents, it saves operational costs to our organizations.
In the past, we would have spent valuable funds on printing and
mailing. Now we can ``force multiply'' with a website at with
greater reach at minimal expense to the tax payers!
Market research is critical in assessing the feasibility of
one's idea and in creating a viable business plan. The days of
pouring over books in the library are long gone. Today's
warriors expect to access data from their smart phone and
tablets, untethered from the restraint of library research and
outdated intel. The use of data from the U.S. Census, the SBA's
Size-Up Tool and online business plan development tools, both
commercial and on SBA resource partner websites are valuable
technological research methods. Bryan, former Army and now
military spouse, is launching an online business. His is a
cutting-edge platform but he still needs that data to
understand and identify his market, locate and cultivate key
resources and partners before he spends a lot of money. All
this intel was readily available at no cost through our office,
SBA resources and the public library which itself is riding the
wave of electronic research tools like Reference USA.
Like many small business, government agencies, from the
local to the federal level, use technology to manage
operations, tracks activities, and use this data to expand its
reach and increase its efficacy. Our organization uses an
electronic client management system called Neoserra. Through
this client management and performance system, we can track our
interactions and communication with our clients, set
performance goals, scheduling, and sign up for training events.
Using the private sector's best practices, the V-BOC network
has just implemented Salesforce, a powerful CRM or Customer
Relationship Management system to schedule training events,
register and communicate with clients, and input data about
attendance and post-training contact.
In V-BOC 2.0's Initiative by the SBA's Office of Veterans
Business Development, we will pilot two business plan online
platforms, LivePlan & GrowthWheel. The goal is to facilitate
the flow of information and track the assistance a client may
receive from multiple SBA resources. Not only will we be able
to counsel clients remotely in real time, we can share, co-
counsel and track clients with other SBA Resource Partners like
SCORE, Small Business Development Centers, and Women's Business
Centers. For example, if a client was referred by a V-BOC to a
Women's Business Center, these platforms will allow us to track
that referral and work together seamlessly to help our client.
Then, if the same client was referred to a lender, and that
referral resulted in the client receiving a business loan,
we'll be able to track that outcome too.
Lastly, social media platforms have become an essential
means of communicating and delivering information at any time
to our increasingly tech savvy clientele. Of course, our
websites are a repository of news and information. But we also
take advantage of the power of Facebook and Twitter. The SBA
and the Office of Veterans Business Development (OVBD) are
active on both platforms. The OVBD uses Facebook to promote
both national and local events, and cast a spotlight on veteran
entrepreneurs with its Success Stories blog. Many V-BOCs use
email platforms like Constant Contact, to maintain
communication with our widespread clientele.
I could continue but you understand how important
technology and online communication has become and how
essential it is for elected officials like you and government
agencies like ours to embrace it and use it to its fullest
potential in service to our constituents.
Information and business now move at the speed of light
because of the technology our nation has helped pioneer and
that our service men and women have contributed to in years
past, today and in the future, both as warriors and as
entrepreneurs. I thank you for this opportunity, and welcome
Submitted, 12 September 2017
Brenton Peacock, Director
Florida's Veterans Business Outreach Center
5230 W Hwy 98
Panama City, FL 32401