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Small Business Development Center at EKU Honored as State's Best

SBDC staff show off trophy

It probably came as no surprise to local educator/entrepreneur Gus LaFontaine or local dentist Dr. Susan Vanstone when the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Eastern Kentucky University was recently named the best of 15 such centers statewide.

“The EKU SBDC, and particularly (Director) Michael Rodriguez, helped empower me with the confidence and organizational capacities to create a successful small business,” said LaFontaine, who this year opened LaFontaine Preparatory School in Richmond. “In our inaugural year, we have been able to enjoy great success, thanks to our own hard work and the guidance of capable people and organizations such as Mr. Rodriguez and the SBDC.”

LaFontaine and Vanstone, also an entrepreneur with a jewelry sideline business, are among the 236 clients in a 15-county area who took advantage of a wide array of SBDC services from Oct. 1, 2010 through Sept. 30 of this year. All told, the clients benefited from approximately 1,100 counselor hours and were approved for almost $2.6 million in loans.

Another plus for EKU’s SBDC is its location in EKU’s Business and Technology Center alongside the Eastern Region Innovation and Commercialization Center, which includes a business accelerator (incubator), and Entrepreneur Services. The EKU SBDC also benefits from a close relationship with EKUBusiness academic programs, all housed in the building. In fact, the SBDC received the 2011 Extraordinary Achievement by a Center Award, in part for its efforts to integrate clients into classroom projects. This fall, four marketing classes are working with 15 clients to develop marketing plans and assist in additional ways.

Dr. Allyn White, an assistant professor in EKU’s Department of Management, Marketing and Administrative Communication, said the juniors and seniors in her Advertising and Internet Marketing classes have benefited tremendously from working with SBDC clients.

“I’ve seen so much more of a personal investment by the students in these projects,” White said. “It’s always nice for students to get examples in practice. It also gives them ideas what they can do when they graduate.”

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Published on November 17, 2011

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