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Small Businesses Share How Minnesota's Small Business Development Centers Helped them Weather the Pandemic

DEED Commissioner and SBDC Director were joined by small business owners and members of state’s Small Business Development Centers advisory board


March 19, 2021

St. Paul – Wednesday was national Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Day and Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove and SBDC State Director Bruce Strong engaged in a lively, productive discussion with several small business owners and SBDC advisory board members from across the state.

Business owners related stories about the challenges they’ve faced starting and running businesses both before and during the pandemic. Participants talked about the value of Minnesota’s network of Small Business Development Centers which assisted more than 5,835 Minnesota entrepreneurs and businesses in 2020, providing over 32,900 professional consulting hours at no cost to the businesses.

Governor Tim Walz proclaimed March 17 Minnesota SBDC Day in recognition of the importance of the SBDC’s work to help entrepreneurs start and grow successful businesses.

“Small businesses are going to play an incredibly important role in our state’s economic recovery coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “They’ve been hard hit by the pandemic. They’ve had to innovate and evolve. That’s one of the reasons the Governor has made adding an additional funding stream into our Small Business Development Centers [a priority] this coming year to help them serve more businesses with the consulting services they offer.”

SBDC consultants can help with aspects of operating a business including financial analysis, marketing and research, business plan development, access to capital and much more.

Regional SBDCs are in Bemidji, Brainerd, Duluth, Mankato, Marshall, Minneapolis, Moorhead, Rochester and St. Cloud. Because of the pandemic, services are offered online but some in-person services are becoming available. To learn more or find the SBDC or satellite office nearest you, visit

“It doesn’t cost you anything to come to the SBDC – whether you’re a brand new startup or that 100-year-old existing company that’s looking to overcome a challenge or become more profitable,” said SBDC State Director Bruce Strong. “Our professional consulting staff are full-time paid consultants, it’s just that we pay them instead of having our clients pay them.”

Roundtable discussion participants highlighted how they’ve had to pivot and change their business operations during the pandemic.

Nathalie Nkashama, owner of World Mart, an ethic grocery store in Worthington, opened the store to provide specialized foods to the African community in her area. But when the pandemic began, she had to shift operations to a store-on-wheels.

“SBDC was really, really helpful,” she said. Referring to assistance she received from her SBDC consultant Berny Berger and others, she said: “It takes a team to run a business. I call them ‘my diamond team.’ Berny Berger was an angel for me, and she pointed me in the right direction.”

Marco Fenu and Lucas Hoffman are the co-owners of InLine Motion, a Detroit Lakes company that designs and manufactures stainless steel conveyance equipment for the food processing industry. Early in the pandemic, they shifted to making much-needed clear plastic face shields and started providing personal protective equipment to Veterans Administration hospitals across the Midwest.

Other participants in the roundtable included:

• Paul Bugbee, an advisory board member and owner of the Bug-Bee Hive Resort in Paynesville

• Douglas E. Fahrforth, an advisory board member and founder of Blue Star Power Systems in Mankato

• Kwame Osafo-Addo, an advisory board member who works with Legal Corps

• Diane Quinn, an advisory board member and owner of Beyond Kitchens in Rochester

• Sue TenEyck-Stafki, executive director of Children’s Corner, which operates nonprofit child care centers in and around Fergus Falls

You can watch a recording of the Small Business Development Center Day roundtable.

DEED is the state's principal economic development agency, promoting business recruitment, expansion and retention, workforce development, international trade and community development. For more details about the agency and its services, visit the DEED website or follow us on Twitter.


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