An open letter to Inland Empire entrepreneurs and small-business owners

Opinion section
Valley News - Opinion

“Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be,” Eeyore said.

We hear you. For the entrepreneurs and small-business owners in our community, particularly those we work with day in and day out, we wanted you to be aware that we hear and understand your frustration with the uncertainty that you are dealing with. Many of the team members at the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship are themselves business owners, so the uncertainty and challenges hit close to home for us as well. Several of us have had to close businesses or put them on hold. This is an unprecedented time for business. This is not business as usual.

The good news in all this? The government is here, and they want to help.  In the face of the last recession, such support was never there – the majority of the attention went toward the “too big to fail” category. Not this time around. It speaks volumes that our government is placing such a high priority on assisting small businesses.

Unfortunately, the Small Business Administration programs were promoted via numerous media channels as if they were ready to go at the push of a button. They were not. The SBA, with programs such as the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, have never had to deal with the scope of such a pervasive national disaster. The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program is a new program being launched in real time with no time for testing or fine-tuning. The process for setting up brand-new procedures, taking in applications, reviewing docs, setting up accounts, making sure all info is secure and delivery of the final product takes time.

Despite these challenges, the dedicated team of SBA professionals is delivering in a big way – overall, there has been outstanding progress and help reaching businesses – more and more every day.  For example, in California, the SBA and its participating lenders processed nearly 113,000 PPP loans – $33.4 billion – in just two weeks. According to the SBA, they processed more loans in that period than in the previous 14 years.

What can you do? Stay persistent and keep communicating with your lender if you are applying for any of these programs. Creatively do whatever it takes to gain access to the resources your business needs – just like the small-business owner in Los Angeles who avoided the big lenders and sought out a small community lender in North Carolina to get his loan.  Reach out to your peers and programs like ours for support – we are listening and helping business owners every day through our SBA-supported programs like the Women’s Business Center and Small Business Development Center. Our counseling services and webinars are some of the tools you can use to navigate these difficult times.

Don’t forget this – right now, you are the most important asset for your business. We believe the starting point for navigating the challenges is your resolve to survive and come out on the other side. As an entrepreneur, you already understand that NO is not really an option. You have operated a business long enough to know it takes an ownership mindset, drive for results and the never-ending process of learning and adapting. This is what makes business owners unique from the rest of the population.

Will you come out on the other side? This situation will pass – just like the last recession. But will your business still be around? We cannot predict the future, and we know that some luck will be needed for every business. But we are betting on you.

There are always options, and you need to focus and analyze your true options – what is actually ready today and in your control that will put you in a better place for your business.  Many of you survived the Great Recession, when there were no loan or grant programs to help.  It is possible to get through this time, but it may be the hardest challenge you will ever face as a business owner. We know that some businesses may be closed completely – yet if you have the ability to partially open and have the ability to forge on, pivot or hold steadfast and be in some aspect of control, then do it. Take control and do those things that will keep you in operation and have you better positioned when one of the SBA or other support programs become available to you.

A final thought about the power of you. For many of you, when you first started your business, if we had told you that “you would not last four weeks let alone eight weeks,” the entrepreneur in you would have done everything in your power to prove us wrong. Entrepreneurs and small-business owners are the strength of our economy and our nation. We need you now more than ever to dig in and hang tough. And remember we always stand for the entrepreneur and business owner – we are always here for you.


Mike Stull

Director of the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at California State University of San Bernardino and department chair of management at the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration

Stacey Allis

Assistant director of the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship

Michelle Skiljan

Director of women’s entrepreneurship at the Women’s Business Center

Paul Nolta

Interim director of business development of the Small Business Development Center

Jeff Williamson

Director of international trade of the State Trade Expansion Program

Steve Abbott

Entrepreneur-in-residence of new venture development at the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship