Free resources available for small business hopefuls and current business owners at TSBDC | WJHL

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – For 30 years, the Tennessee Small Business Development Center has been helping people all across the Tri-Cities open their own businesses.

The office is just one of 15 offices in the network that can be found spread across the state of Tennessee. According to their official website, more than 100,000 businesses have received assistance from the Tennessee Small Business Development Network.

The TSBDC provides free confidential counseling as well as training seminars, both public and private, on many business-related topics.

It’s a resource partner of the SBA, according to Mark Bays, the director of the TSBDC at ETSU. As of right now, the TSBDC has moved operations online during this pandemic. However, that hasn’t stopped them from reaching their goal of helping people across the Tri-Cities start their own small business.

From 2015-2019, Bays said they helped around 1,200 businesses get started. So far in 2020, it ranges between assisting 1,600-1,800 businesses, a jump they contribute to the pandemic. Whether you’re just getting started or need help figuring out how to stay afloat in these tough times, there are resources available at no cost.

“So it just allows them to get better in-tuned to what’s available to them and help them in figuring out the options,” said Bays.

Valentina Escobar-Gonzalez went through the process nine years ago to get her business off the ground and said she learned information she would have never figured out on her own.

“I love the fact that with this program, you get to learn not only marketing but the finance, accounting, the book-keeping, just even starting your license. There are so many things that people just don’t know about when they start their business,” said Founder of Beyond Engagement, Valentina Escobar-Gonzalez.

Escobar-Gonzalez is now giving back to the group that once helped her achieve her dreams by teaching courses and webinars at the center. “We’re all trying to help each other, we’re all trying to benefit and this all affects the local economy when we can all help each other,” she said.

JJ’s Diner is new to the scene in the Tri-Cities and is an up-and-coming business that also received help from the TSBDC. “If I did open without their help, it wouldn’t have been near as smooth as when I did open with their help, said Owner of JJ’s Diner, Joy Jack.

Joseph Powers, who also used TSBDC resources to start his own business sent us this statement regarding his experience:

“Most of the assistance that we took advantage of was counseling. Mark helped us to form our first business plan, how to speculate on growth, and what steps to take to form our company. I feel like with both the support of Mark and the SBA, it was a very substantial boost of confidence when I stepped into the entrepreneurial world.”

Joseph Powers
Owner of Green Cube Solutions LLC

Jack encourages everyone to go for it and just ask for help. She said the TSBDC was a key element in her successful opening and she’s still in awe that all of that counseling came at no cost.

“I would definitely say use them. It’s almost shocking because it’s free,” said Jack.

Again, at this time, counseling is being done remotely but is still a full service provided at no cost, all you have to do is sign up. There are also pre-recorded webinars regarding business strategies and techniques available now on

“I invite people to take advantage of these. They’re on a variety of different business topics and there definitely can be something out there that can be beneficial for them,” said Bays.

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