A small lunch attracting a smattering of local business owners has grown into a weeklong educational event with more than 500 attendees.
Small Business Week, an event co-sponsored by the Small Business Development Center and the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, kicks off June 16. The theme this year is “From Peaks and Valleys to Powerful Pathways,” and focuses on overcoming obstacles.
Regional events celebrating small businesses began 25 years ago with the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, according to BBB Executive Director and CEO Matt Barrett.
Six years ago, Barrett said, the chamber passed the torch to the SBDC.
“It was Small Business Day at that point,” he said.
Barrett said Small Business Week sets out to accomplish four goals:
• create awareness of resources available to small businesses in the community;
• bring attention to the champions of small business, including volunteers;
• honor and recognize small business successes already in the community; and
According to Aikta Marcoulier, executive director of the Colorado Springs SBDC, there was too much content to pack into one day.
“We felt we needed to honor small businesses in a bigger and better way,” she said. “Small business needs to be celebrated every day, but at least we can do a week of events to properly educate and make people aware of what’s around. Who should be recognized for their successes? Who’s championing small business? We took the [single]-day idea and spread it out. We have educational opportunities the entire week and then hand out small business awards on the final day.”
Some of those award-winners then become eligible for state and national recognition bythe U.S. Small Business Administration. Those include the Small Business Person of the Year Award and the Phoenix Award, which goes to the person who best showed leadership during catastrophic times.
Jan Erickson of Janska Clothing that Comforts in Colorado Springs, won Small Business Person of the Year at the state level this year.
“Janska is a good example of using community resources, because [Erickson] had gone everywhere for them,” Marcoulier said. “She utilized consulting [the Service Corps of Retired Executives], the Chamber of Commerce and the BBB.”
Marcoulier said most partners from last year’s inaugural weeklong event have returned because the workshops and awards ceremony were so popular.
“Over 500 people attended last year,” Marcoulier said. “We hope for more this year. We’ll at least [match last year’s attendance] I’m sure.”
The workshops are free and there is a $45 charge to attend the Small Business Week Awards Luncheon on June 20.
“The average small business owner won’t invest $60 to have lunch and hear a keynote speaker,” Barrett said of the value of the free events. “But we have people at these events who [ranged] anywhere from just waking up and thought about starting a business and this has inspired them, to businesses who are in the process of or have already started. We go from one end to the other.”
Marcoulier added the events are “pertinent to the time,” and echoed Barrett’s explanation that the workshops are intended for a broad audience.
“These topics speak to everybody, not just for startups,” she said. “Everybody can take something away from these. Last year we had successful cyber-security companies come and sit next to someone from a bakery on Eighth Street.”
Marcoulier said programs like Small Business Week and the work that SBDC has done to assist in disaster relief have earned it the SBA 2014 Region VIII SBDC Excellence and Innovation Award, puttingit among the top 10 centers in the nation.