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An Open Letter to Inland Empire Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners — By Mike Stull

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An Open Letter to Inland Empire Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners:

By Mike Stull — Director, Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship –  Jack H. Brown College of Business & Public Administration

Could be worse. Not sure how, but it could be. -Eeyore

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 (IECE) 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 great recession, such support was never there – the majority of the attention went towards 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 (SBA) 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 (EIDL), have never had to deal with the scope of such a pervasive national disaster. The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) 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 – a total of $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, 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 4 weeks let alone 8 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.

Our team is here to work with you on planning for your business operations now and beyond:

  • Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) – entre@csusb.edu
  • Inland Empire Women’s Business Center (IEWBC) – www.iewbc.org
  • Coachella Valley Women’s Business Center (CVWBC) – www.cvwbc.org
  • Small Business Development Center (SBDC) – www.iesmallbusiness.com
  • State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) – www.californiaexport.org

About the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) Established in 1999, the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) supports and celebrate Entrepreneurship & Small Business through innovative programs and educational resources. IECE coordinates academic programs that lead to business degrees in Entrepreneurship for undergraduate and graduate students as well as delivering experiential learning and student support programs such as the Fast Pitch Competition. In the local community, IECE offers existing and aspiring entrepreneurs a wide array of business advisory and mentoring services and entrepreneurial training programs that help them achieve greater levels of success in their business ventures. IECE was recognized internationally by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and received the Entrepreneurship Spotlight Challenge award for demonstrating leadership in creating (and incubating) cutting-edge business innovations through enriched student learning and experiential education; which ranked them among the top 35 entrepreneurship programs globally. California State University, San Bernardino is a preeminent center of intellectual and cultural activity in Inland Southern California. Opened in 1965 and set at the foothills of the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains, the university serves more than 20,000 students each year and graduates about 4,000 students annually. CSUSB offers 48 undergraduate, 35 graduate, and 1 doctoral degree programs and 14 academic programs with national accreditation.

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

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Local Veteran and His Family Open New Graze Craze Charcuterie Business in Murrieta, California

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Southern California wine country gets another stylish culinary option, offering beautifully designed, hand-crafted grazing boards and picnic boxes

Graze Craze® has opened a new location close to the wine country of Southern California, where its artfully arranged sweet and savory grazing boards and boxes create a perfect pairing for food lovers. Located at 24530 Village Walk Place, Suite C, in Village Walk Plaza, the 1,021-square-foot store is owned and operated by disabled veteran Chris Stout and his wife, Stephanie Stout, with assistance from their teenage children.

At Graze Craze, highly trained experts known as Grazologists™ skillfully design charcuterie arrangements that feature an assortment of fine ingredients perfect for grazing, like fresh fruits and vegetables, premium meats and cheeses, artisanal sweets, nuts, house-made jams and more.

Chris Stout enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2001 and served several deployments before being discharged in 2012. Since then, he has worked as a field service engineer for an electronics company and in manufacturing sales. Stephanie Stout has a bachelor’s degree in business accounting from the University of Phoenix and worked for an insurance broker before the couple’s first child was born; she then devoted herself full-time to raising their three children, who are now in high school.

Graze Craze charcuterie boards offer something for every lifestyle, dietary preference or palate and are available in a variety of size options to cater to any occasion, big or small. They incorporate a medley of flavors, like the fan-favorite Gone Grazey board, a perfectly balanced mix of cured meats, premium cheeses, crackers, fresh produce, nuts and more. The Vegegrazian is impeccably designed with a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables for anyone embracing a plant-based lifestyle. Those with an undeniable sweet tooth can enjoy the Sweet & Grazey, a hand-crafted board featuring an abundance of delectable desserts like chocolates and baked goods paired with sweet dips to accent the irresistible flavors.

New to the Graze Craze menu is the Brunch Board, a gourmet and innovative twist on any morning routine. Packed with breakfast meats, fresh fruits, eggs, pastries and more, this board is the perfect bagel-and-donut brunch alternative. Grazers can also tackle watch-party cravings with a seasonal Game Day Board, featuring a feast of

crowd-pleasing ingredients, like peppered salami, Italian prosciutto, goat cheese, cranberry walnut bread, raspberry jam and chocolate bark, to name a few.

The artisan-inspired charcuterie offerings at Graze Craze are available in different size options, from Char-Cutie-Cups and Picnic Boxes for nibbling to sharing-size boards with enough fresh food to feed a large party. The food displays are ideal for elevating work meetings, family gatherings, lavish events and more, while they also make for memorable gifts that impress.

Besides sharing the flavorful menu with the area, the Stouts are actively involved in numerous local school, business and community organizations. The pair supports the Murrieta Valley High School Marching Band Boosters and California High School Rodeo Association District 8, in addition to the Boy Scouts of America California Inland Empire Council and Friends of Temecula Troop 309, where Christopher Stout is a part of the adult leadership team. The couple has also worked with Homes For Our Troops, an impactful nonprofit organization that builds specially adapted homes for post-9/11 disabled veterans.

Graze Craze Murrieta is open for pick-up, catering and free local delivery Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 951-942-7293.

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Partners in Action: How CalOSBA is bridging the gap in funding and resources for Inland Empire small businesses

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By Josaline Cuesta, California Program Director, Small Business Majority & IEBJ Content Contributor

For Tara Lynn Gray, Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate (CalOSBA), entrepreneurship has always been a core principle of her life. Her journey as an advocate for small businesses wasn’t built on textbooks, but on her family’s roots in small business ownership. As a young girl, she watched her grandmother empower and elevate Black women’s presences by styling their hair and instilling confidence in their personhood. She witnessed the direct impact of small businesses on community members in real time, and that’s always stayed with Tara.

As a key partner of Small Business Majority, she stands as a champion for the dreamers and risk-takers; the pillars of the communities across California and in the Inland Empire. I chatted with her to share more about her work at CalOSBA, what entrepreneurs can expect when they meet with a CalOSBA advisor, and the resources and community support available to help boost entrepreneurship in the Golden State.

Tell us about CalOSBA’s role in the small business community.

“California has the biggest small business community in the country, accounting for 4.1 million small businesses in 2023 alone. The overwhelming majority have no employees at all, except themselves, which means they don’t have a Board of Directors, expensive consultants, and they definitely don’t have lobbyists. I take my role as their advocate seriously, talking with and listening to small business owners from up and down the state. During the pandemic, we were under a very bright spotlight, administering nearly $5 billion in direct relief funding and we’re proud of the grant programs we still oversee. But that’s only a small part of what we do at CalOSBA.

My team connects small business owners to information and resources to help them get started, manage their business and, most importantly, to grow. If they’re looking for help, we want to be the first door they knock on. In addition, we offer Outsmart Disaster training, which focuses on how to mitigate risks associated with natural disasters and recovery avenues available to them. I always say the flagship of our office is our support for the statewide network of Small Business Centers, providing 1:1 business assistance and training for small business owners of all industries and in dozens of languages. In addition, supporting partners that deliver these services–all the federally funded centers like the Small Business Development Centers and the Women’s Business Centers but also Chambers of Commerce and other nonprofits—is a core function of my office. And a big source of pride because we know what a difference they make for their clients.”

What can small business owners expect from meeting with a California Small Business Center advisor?

“Small business owners can expect to meet someone who is fully invested in them. Our Centers cover the full spectrum of business needs, from writing a business plan and obtaining the right permits and licenses, to finding capital, planning a succession strategy and marketing to e-commerce. Our business advisors provide the experience and the objective perspective to help business owners optimize their best assets: ideas, energy, and ability to keep adapting and learning. And they do it because they love helping other people succeed. What’s more, business ownership can become isolating and it may be challenging for entrepreneurs to find assistance. But they don’t have to go at it alone–and they shouldn’t, when these no-cost and low-cost services are available to them.”

What’s the most rewarding part of your role at CalOSBA?

“I always say I have the best job in the state. And it’s because I frequently have the honor to watch someone’s dream come true. I love a ribbon-cutting ceremony–Every time, big or small. It means someone dreamed of accomplishing something and worked hard for it: They opened the doors to their business, they made a sale, and hopefully they will hire their first employee and then it’s off to the races. But no matter what happens to that business, that ribbon-cutting is a milestone they made happen for themselves. There are many other events I get invited to, where you can just see the hope and pride, and even fear in their faces. I’m often overwhelmed by the sheer emotion of it, and I’m always humbled that I get to participate in that person’s big milestone.”

What are some new programs that can benefit small business owners in the Inland Empire?

“The number one question my office gets asked is how to access small business financing. To help address this key need, we’re launching the Technical Assistance for Capital Readiness program this February. The program is part of a bigger effort to fill well-known funding gaps in the state to benefit very small businesses and Socially and Economically Disadvantaged Individuals (SEDI). Through investments from the U.S. Treasury, the State Treasurer’s Office and IBank, the program is going to support lenders to facilitate “high risk” loans that they normally would not approve.

In addition to supporting lenders, my office also received $25.3 million in U.S. Treasury funding to start the new Capital Readiness network. The Capital Readiness Coaches in this network will help business owners get ready for the lending marketplace, help them make the best choices in a high interest-rate environment, and optimize the use of the capital once they receive it. The network is also designed to help spread the word about this opportunity to these SEDI-owned businesses, and some of those partners will be focused on supporting the Inland Empire small business ecosystem.”

How can business owners get in touch with CalOSBA?

“That’s simple! Check out calosba.ca.gov and sign up for our monthly newsletter, where I write a column and showcase success stories from our network, along with deadlines and updates on grant and workforce support programs. We’re also on social media, so I would encourage business owners to check out all of our channels.”

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2024 Banking & Financial Industry Outlook: Where Knowledge Meets Opportunity in California’s Financial Landscape

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In an age where financial trends rapidly evolve and economic landscapes shift with increasing unpredictability, the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce stands as a beacon of knowledge and opportunity. It proudly announces its sold-out annual event, the Financial Industry Update, an exclusive gathering tailor-made for California and the Inland Empire region. This prestigious event is set to unfold on January 18, 2024, at the Ontario International Airport Authority Conference Center, promising an enriching experience for attendees.

A Gathering of Minds in the Financial Sphere

The Financial Industry Update is more than just an event; it’s a crucial nexus for professionals, businesses, and community leaders keen on gaining a deeper understanding of the financial nuances specific to California and the Inland Empire. This year’s event is particularly significant, given the rapid changes and challenges facing the financial sector in the region.

Keynote Speaker: A Treasury of Knowledge

Leading the charge is none other than California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, a figure renowned for her acumen in public finance, economic development, and responsible fiscal management. Her role as the keynote speaker underscores the event’s stature, offering invaluable insights into the financial future of California and the Inland Empire.

Featured Speakers: A Diverse Spectrum of Expertise

Joining Treasurer Ma is a lineup of distinguished speakers, each bringing unique perspectives and expertise:

  • Ivo Tjan: As the Chairman, President, and CEO of CommerceWest Bank, Tjan’s journey from founding the company to leading it through an IPO is nothing short of inspirational. His leadership and insights are eagerly anticipated.
  • Hilda Kennedy: The Founder/President of AmPac CDC and a trailblazer in local government and economic development, Kennedy’s impact on small businesses and community financing is profound.
  • Edward Ornelas, Jr.: The visionary force behind the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce, Ornelas’s innovative approaches to business and economic development have redefined the region’s business narrative.

Event Highlights: More Than Just Talks

The event promises more than just insightful presentations. It’s a unique opportunity for networking, where professionals can connect, collaborate, and engage with potential partners and influential community figures. The interactive Q&A sessions will allow attendees to delve deeper into subjects, clarifying doubts and gaining more profound knowledge.

A Confluence of Opportunity and Expertise

This event symbolizes the intersection of knowledge and opportunity in California’s dynamic financial landscape. It’s a platform where insights are shared, connections are made, and the future of the financial industry in the Inland Empire is contemplated and shaped.

As January 18 approaches, the anticipation among California’s financial community continues to build. This event is not just a meeting of minds; it’s a forge where the future of financial industry trends and strategies will be hammered out, shaping the economic future of the Inland Empire and beyond.

For more information about the event and the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce, visit www.iechamber.org

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