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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Program expansion brings new opportunities for business students

By Sam Fletcher

Western’s Small Business Development Center has brought on a new business advisor to help the launch of their new rural outreach program to strengthen Whatcom County businesses.

For students, the new program involves more than just ones who are starting a small business.

Graduate students can take internships at the SBDC and work directly with clients, CJ Seitz, business advisor and SBDC director, said.

Undergraduate students and professors can run various research projects through the center, integrating with community businesses.

Beyond that, broadening the reach of the SBDC also means greater career networking opportunities for students.

“I love small towns and small businesses,” SBDC business advisor Asche Rider said. “I think that they are the backbone of our economy. I’m excited to give them access to the services that they need.”

According to the SBDC website, the organization, which has 27 offices in Washington, opened their Western office in 1983.

The SBDC sees over 300 clients on a one-on-one basis. They give supplemental advice on anything and everything, including human resourcing, financial issues and brand range, Seitz said.

The new program will help expand the SBDC’s market and demographic base in rural Whatcom County, SBDC Program Specialist Haley Halverson said. This, of course, also required the expansion of staff.

The rural outreach program was made possible by a grant written by the Northwest Business Development Association, Seitz said.

NWBDA President Debra Shipman told Western Today their goal is to promote the expansion of small businesses and that investing in rural communities helps create jobs.

The SBDC is a part of an expansive network of over 1,000 programs across the United States committed to developing small businesses to their full potential, Seitz said. Expanding the SBDC in Whatcom County means a whole flood of new demographic reach. 

To tackle this, the SBDC wanted someone who had well-developed technical and leadership skills, Seitz said.

For Seitz, Rider checked all of these requirements and more.

Rider said she has a background in finance, hospitality and management, and has worked with small businesses for 15 years. Her most recent venture was managing a meat producers’ cooperative.

Rider’s work with the SBDC will involve economic development in small communities in the foothills of Mount Baker, such as Maple Falls and Kendall, Halverson said. She will be able to form greater connections, new accounting and business insight and a broader reach.

“[Rider has an] ability to connect with people in a real tangible way, a really curious mind and an ability to bring people together,” Seitz said. “She really does have a gift.”

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