When people think of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center, or TSBDC, Amelia Bozeman wants them to think less about the “small” and more about the “business development.”
The MTSU alumna was hired in January as director of the Murfreesboro/MTSU Service Center for the Tennessee Small Business Development Center, which is headquartered at MTSU within the Jennings A. Jones College of Business and consists of a network of 15 service centers that are connected to universities and community colleges throughout the state.
“Our name is a bit of a misnomer,” Bozeman says with a smile. “The ‘small’ in our name leads a lot of people to believe that we’re only here for the startups and the mom-and-pop shops that we all love so dearly, and we’re absolutely there for them. … But we also can help really large businesses and that’s a message that I want to get out there.”
The TSBDC’s service centers are staffed by consultants who provide no-cost virtual and in-person business consulting, training, and resources to help for-profit businesses of any size start, grow and sustain. Center staff can provide assistance in areas such as business planning, financial planning, marketing and sales strategies, social media and website analysis, government contracting and numerous other areas.
‘Take their dreams to the next level’
The Murfreesboro center is housed inside the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce located at 3050 Medical Center Parkway in Murfreesboro. Patrick Geho, management professor in the Jones College of Business, is the TSBDC’s state executive director and oversees the 15 service centers across the state.
“We’re here for all businesses, all sizes,” Bozeman said. “If you own a business or if you work in a business, chances are pretty good that we can do something to assist. … We are committed to helping business owners and prospective business owners take their dreams to the next level and make them a reality.”
The Murfreesboro TSBDC office covers a 14-county area in southern Middle Tennessee and can provide business owners and entrepreneurs with assistance at any stage in the life cycle of a business, from inception to exit.
The center conducts market research as well as competitive and financial analyses for clients at no cost to the client, Bozeman said.
“We utilize several licensed applications that will provide us the ability to conduct research for local business and industry, leveraging MTSU faculty when the client needs dictate. Our applications data provides deeper insights into demographics, firmographics, and lifestyle traits of businesses and consumers,” she said.
“We use our data to create a competitor report to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competition in your specific location or across the U.S. Our many small business clients can use our data to generate heat-map and target market information to help find the best place to open up shop,” she said.
‘A gold mine of opportunities’
Before joining the TSBDC, Bozeman ran a successful consulting business and before that served as executive director of a nonprofit organization. She’s also an adjunct instructor within MTSU’s Jones College of Business, where she teaches courses in management, not-for-profit management, and strategic decision making.
“Amelia has built many relationships within the regional business community over many years that will be helpful to her as she broadens the outreach of the TSBDC service center,” Jones College Dean David Urban said. “TSBDC’s assistance and training resources represent a gold mine of opportunities for new and growing businesses.”
Bozeman has been visiting business owners throughout southern Middle Tennessee and engaging with the various chambers of commerce around the region about the resources available through the center.
“The Small Business Development Centers were created as economic development engines, to facilitate business starts, job growth, job retention and of course capital infusion. We can assist at the very beginning of an economic development project and at any other point,” she said.
“In addition to working directly with businesses, our center conducts research for municipalities, chambers of commerce, and economic development agencies. The TSBDC network includes experts on international trade as well.”
The center doesn’t write business plans for entrepreneurs but can provide a templated framework from which the entrepreneur can develop their own plan and then get feedback from center staff on potential revisions and improvements to the plan.
Bozeman reminds potential clients that although the TSBDC is affiliated with the U.S. Small Business Administration, it is not a lender. But center staff can assist clients with preparation to go before a lender and getting access to capital.
Certain government programs, such as SBA loan programs and contracting opportunities, are reserved for businesses that meet the SBA’s size standards, which vary by industry.
“Not everyone who starts a business went to business school,” she said. “We provide one-on-one, confidential consulting and counseling that helps business owners navigate challenges and capitalize on opportunities.”
‘Deep bench of talent’
The center is funded by federal and state dollars, so the consulting and basic courses are provided at no additional costs, although some courses may come with a “nominal” cost to cover TSBDC expenses to provide them, Bozeman said.
“The TSBDC has a deep bench of talent that enables us to provide these services, including not only TSBDC staff, but also our national research office ‘SBDC Net’ and our almost 1,000 locations nationwide with which we all work in tandem, and of course, experts within our Jones College of Business faculty,” she said.
The center helped business owners during the pandemic with navigating the process of securing CARES Act funding to offset losses caused by business and consumer disruptions ranging from the shutdowns at the start of the pandemic to the ongoing supply chain issues.
COVID-19 also opened up the potential for local businesses to transition to e-commerce platforms as the pandemic disrupted traffic at brick-and-mortar locations, Bozeman noted.
Bozeman earned her master’s degree in management-organizational leadership from MTSU and her bachelor’s degree from Austin Peay State University. Her new role at the TSBDC continues the education for this lifelong learner.
“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to be a part of this organization that makes a significant difference and impact on businesses and our economy,” she said.
Visit the Murfreesboro center’s website at https://tsbdc.org/center/murfreesboro/ to register for courses or request consulting services or call 615-898-2745 for an appointment (no walk-ins). Learn more about the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at https://tsbdc.org.
— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)