SBA bringing back free initiative to help small businesses grow

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Providing local mom and pop shops with the tools to grow is what the local Small Business Administration wants to do this spring, especially after a year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To that end, it’s bringing back the Emerging Leaders Initiative and the program is 100 percent free.

One local restaurant owner who was part of the program last year said it is the reason her restaurant was able to make it through the last year.

A busy stovetop is what Antoinette Parks, co-owner of Creole Kitchen in Columbus, likes to see.

“It gives you that confidence to know that you’re going to be here and you’re going to stay here,” Parks said.

She said SBA’s Emerging Leaders program gave her the knowledge to get through some tough patches during the pandemic.

“Taught me how to go back to the table, you know, write down my thoughts and map it out,” Parks said. “What it is, what we need to do and do it now, because the pandemic hit, and things were changing so fast and businesses were closing. It was crazy.”

Everett Woodel with the SBA Central and South office said that this year, SBA is adding an additional class – a seven-month long virtual program which focuses on growth.

“If you’re looking at this program, you’ve made it through probably some of the roughest times, and many of them had to pivot to survive,” he said.

Woodel added what makes the program special is the ability to network and create relationships.

“It’s all of those individuals that they get to interact with and learn from,” he said. “They’ve been there, they’ve done that, they’ve survived down markets, right? So they bring that expertise to the classroom.”

Parks said the program helped get one of her dreams on track. She’s been working all year long on packaging and selling spice blends created in the Creole Kitchen.

“I would say it’s a must to do it,” she said of the program. “It’s a must. You got to go get that knowledge to know how to get to that next level and if you don’t reach out to go get that, you’re going to stay where you are.”

An information session is scheduled for March 9, you can find the details here.

There are also prerequisites to be part of the program. That information is here.

You can also reach out to SBA Central and Southern Ohio Lead Economic Development Specialist Shannon Feucht at

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