Small Business Week

Small Business Development Center

Denise Franta (left), director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at UIC, and Illinois Deputy Governor Leslie Geissler Munger showcase a proclamation designating April 30-May 6 Small Business Week in Illinois. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

UIC kicked off the 54th annual National Small Business Week Monday with the release of a 21st-century roadmap for Small Business Development Centers across the state.

Authored by Denise Franta, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UIC, the report is designed to revamp the Small Business Development Center network to better serve minority entrepreneurs who are starting, growing and sustaining ventures in the digital age.

The report, “Reimagine: The Future of Illinois’ Small Business Development Centers,” includes actionable recommendations. A Maximum Impact Value Indicator will measure the economic value of businesses and determine how the centers are serving entrepreneurs.

“Implementation will take place over the next year,” said Franta, who has worked with the SBDC since 2009. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the U.S. Small Business Administration selected SBDC at UIC to write the report.

“It’s a great honor to be able to complete this project,” she said.

Illinois Deputy Governor Leslie Geissler Munger shared remarks about the economic impact of small business owners and the importance of the SBDC and programs — like Reimagine — that support them.

“We understand how important small businesses are,” said Munger, who delivered a proclamation, signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, that designated April 30 through May 6 as Small Business Week in Illinois.

During her remarks, she highlighted that 1.2 million small businesses exist in the state, employing 2.4 million people.

“Thank you for your time,” she told SBDC administrators, Chancellor Michael Amiridis, university staff, and other leaders in attendance, “for helping us invest in small businesses and helping communities all throughout Illinois.”

Chancellor Amiridis said he is proud of SBDC at UIC staff and the groups that fund and support the center — the College of Business Administration, the Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

He also recognized four successful local entrepreneurs who have worked closely with Franta and other staff from the UIC SBDC program, which provides advice and a variety of entrepreneurship education opportunities to small business owners.

Those recognized included Laura Martinez, a chef from the North Side restaurant La Diosa who is blind; Narciso Albarracin, an architect of digital health systems who began ONTO Adaptive LLC; Christopher Valdez with Thermatome Corporation, which uses a heat treatment to kill cancer cells in patients after initial surgeries; and Tom Ruginis, founder of a lab product-managing business called HappiLabs.

“We have to keep this in mind: our job is to be facilitators, our job is to be able to provide these services and then let people really achieve their potential that they have,” Amiridis said. “UIC, our Small Business Development Center do exactly this. We have always been and will be the support center and economic incubator that promotes innovation and leads entrepreneurs to drive the quality of life for all of us.”



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