Press Release


Marin Voice: A helping hand for Marin small businesses

By Miriam Hope Karell

May 13, 2017— Most small businesses are familiar with the U.S. Small Business Administration, primarily as a guarantor to bank or credit union funding for their loans. Less well known but a core mission of the Small Business Administration is its partial funding of Small Business Development Centers which provide no cost assistance to local, small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.

The centers have been created to help entrepreneurs realize the dream of business ownership and to help existing businesses remain competitive. Often hosted by leading universities and funded by state economic development agencies, the center in Marin enjoys pro bono office space provided by Dominican University. We also receive grants from the county and economic development commissions of San Rafael and Novato.

Did I mention that the services are free to businesses?

In addition to our regular business counseling and advising services, in partnership with the city of Novato, we recently conducted a series of three free seminars and nearly 200 businesses registered for the events.

We also work with organizations ranging from the Canal Alliance to the College of Marin.

To date, the results in Marin have been amazing.

In the past several years, we have helped nearly 750 local or aspiring business owners to create or to retain more than 700 jobs, increasing business revenues in Marin by $21 million and attracting $24 million in additional capital infusion.

Marin’s center is one of 12 located in Northern California. As its director, I have assembled a staff of advisors to cover all essential topics where a business owner needs guidance. But the number of projects undertaken by the group leaves little time for the additional fund raising needed to meet the SBA requirement to raise a $1-for-$1 match for all the funding that it provides.

We depend on local sources of support from municipalities, and individual contributorsfor additional dollars to keep the program alive.

Did I mention some examples of the success?

• Delicious Catering, which, after more than four decades, came to the center in 2016 when it faced the challenges of moving its facilities and reorganizing its business structure.

Working with the center’s consultants, the San Rafael-based company obtained financing, attracted new clients, increased revenues and completed a smooth transition while maintaining long-time staff

• Senior Settlers, a senior move management company that began working with the center prior to its launch in 2014, provides skilled downsizing, de-cluttering and relocation assistance to Bay Area seniors. Now, three years later, Senior Settlers is a successful small business and, after one year as an operating business, hired three people and exceeded its revenue projections by 300 percent. In its second year (2016), profitability doubled. I believe that we are an extremely productive, bangfor- the buck, communitywide organization that deserves the support of municipal economic development commissions.

Our mission is to improve business retention, to support startups and to build the core economic building block of our communities, local businesses. I ask you to take a look at our website,, and consider how you might help.

Miriam Hope Karell is the executive director of the Marin Small Business Development Center.

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