SUtah mall businesses will soon have the opportunity to access capital through the state’s new State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) program. And for women considering starting a new business, be on the lookout for the state’s next initiative of 1,000 New Women-Owned Businesses.
With this kind of support, money, and opportunity, Utah is definitely one of the most small business-friendly states in the country.
The Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity (Go Utah) announced the launch of the SSBCI in June. With funds authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, the state is expected to receive $69 million over 10 years through SSBCI.
By the end of 2022, small businesses will be able to apply for SSBCI loans from participating local lenders. If you’re a small business with less than 10 employees, they set aside $4.1 million of those funds for businesses like yours. And for businesses owned by “socially or economically disadvantaged people,” they allocate $8.3 million.
“The SSBCI is a program designed to expand access to capital for small businesses, create ecosystems of opportunity and entrepreneurship, and create high-quality jobs,” says Alecia Hart, Strategic Program Manager for the SSBCI and the 1,000 new women-owned businesses initiative.
Hart explains that these are federal dollars flowing into Utah to support small businesses. “It offers a guarantee for [the financial institutions] so that they can expand and provide loans to small businesses that really need capital to grow their business, who might not have received it otherwise,” she says. “We are excited about this program as it is a long-term economic development program that strengthens traditional credit options and improves their products for small businesses.
It is in no way a grant or a handout, says Hart. “Because it’s a loan, it helps small businesses become self-sufficient. This helps them get the capital they need to grow, but it still requires them to meet the terms of a traditional loan. The program invests in existing structures and helps us develop our options for accessing capital now and over the next 10 years.
SSBCI funds are expected to be available by the end of 2022. In the meantime, Hart says she and her team are working on developing their outreach plan to ensure the program is evenly distributed. She recommends that those interested go to the SSBCI website, sign up for the newsletter, and join the waitlist when it becomes available.
Once the program is up and running, Hart says his team will work to expand awareness and access to SSBCI loans through social media channels and newsletters from partner organizations. They will also share success stories, making sure to include diverse representation “so people can see themselves in the program,” she says.
Another piece of good news for budding women entrepreneurs in the Beehive State is the 1,000 New Women-Owned Businesses initiative. Although this campaign is still in its early stages, it will essentially help women entrepreneurs access the education, mentorship and resources they need to grow their business from inception to profitability.
“We work with Dr. [Susan] Madsen at the Utah Women & Leadership Project (UWLP),” Hart says. “It’s an incredible organization. Dr. Madsen has done a lot of research on how we can make Utah a leader in women’s equality.
Dr. Madsen’s research was featured in a recent UWLP report titled “Utah Gender Wage Gap: A 2021 Update.” The report provides a deep dive into HubWallet’s 2021 version of “The Best and Worst States for Women,” where Utah ranked last (and not for the first time).
This report provides an overview of the challenges Utah faces in increasing its gender equality, as well as specific recommendations for making improvements. Among those recommendations is to “add 1,000 more women-owned businesses in Utah.”
The Women’s Business Center of Utah (WBCU) is one of Go Utah’s partners in developing the initiative. Ann Marie Wallace, WBCU state director, said the goal of the initiative is not just to help launch new women-owned businesses, but to help women-owned businesses to become profitable enough to hire their first employee. When comparing male-owned businesses to female-owned businesses in Utah, the former tends to make their first hire earlier than the latter, Wallace says.
“All of these amazing women entrepreneurs who wear all the hats on their own, we want to help them grow their business so they can hire an employee,” she continues. “It is so necessary in our state. We want to contribute to helping women learn how to be better, efficient and profitable business owners so that they can get to that first employee, not just to appear in the rankings, but to be part of the economy at more large scale. They are already an important part, but they are not on par with their male counterparts.
Wallace explains that the initiative will focus on education, outreach, support and follow-up to measure its success in increasing the number of women-owned businesses that reach that first employee threshold.
The initiative will also raise awareness of the valuable resources that are already available to new entrepreneurs, Wallace said, many of whom provide free or low-cost services exclusively to women business owners. These resources include the WBCU, ShePlace, Utah Valley University’s WE LIFT, Venture Capital’s WeROC, the Salt Lake City National Association of Women Business Owners, and others. She adds that other organizations help men- and women-owned businesses include the Suazo Business Center, Utah Small Business Development Center, and SCORE Utah.
With Utah ranked #1 for Best Economic Outlook and #2 for Best Economy, among many other accolades, it’s confirmed to see that Go Utah also prioritizes small business and homeowner growth. underrepresented business.
“Utah is passionate about helping small businesses,” says Hart. “I have been impressed with Governor Cox’s administration, the current leadership and the directions they are taking for small business. One of the things they are pushing for is to seek to improve not only economic opportunity but also quality of life, which is an amazing addition to that. It’s an exciting change.