Program Helps Leaders Emerge


Program Helps Leaders Emerge

Emerging Leaders
The SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative classes take place at the UTRGV Center for Innovation and Commercialization in Weslaco. (VBR)

Applications from 22 South Texas businesses were in by the March deadline for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Initiative intensive course. Interest is high for the first area offering of the course via the SBA’s Lower Rio Grande Valley District.

The SBA started the initiative nationwide in 2008. Yet, this is the first time businesses from Deep South Texas north to Corpus Christi can take advantage locally. “We have been advocating to have the program down here and I am very interested in making sure it’s very successful,” District Director Angela Burton says.

Of the 22 applicants, all are from the Valley except for two. One is from Kingsville and one from Corpus Christi, Burton says.

Emerging Leaders provides intensive entrepreneurship education and training to small businesses.

The initiative inspires participants to elevate their enterprise to a new level. The course includes about 100 hours of classroom time, homework and opportunities to work with experienced coaches and mentors. Classes begin in April and the program runs through October.

To qualify for the initiative, businesses must have been operating for at least three years. They also have at least one employee (besides the executive) participant and generate revenues between $250,000 and $10 million. The 22 applicants will be vetted to ensure they are eligible before classes begin.

“Some of the vetting is done through the application process but we will also have interviews,” Burton says. “One of the things I am really looking at is their interest in taking their business to the next level and their commitment to the course.”

Described as a mini-MBA training, Burton says the initiative offers small business owners a chance to work on their businesses instead of in their businesses. “Too often, small business owners are caught up in the day-to-day operations and don’t build and plan for the future.”

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Center for Innovation and Commercialization in Weslaco will host the classes. “The Center promotes entrepreneurs and promotes innovation, so we are happy to assist the SBA with this program, Director Laurie Simmons says. “If we are not running something ourselves, we want to be able to support other organizations and ultimately create job wealth in the Valley.”

The SBA has contracted with Interise, a company that offers its Streetwise MBA training to organizations. The training provides small business owners with the knowledge, know-how and networks they need to achieve scale, according to the company website. Burton says Interise has also contracted with Barbara Baggerly-Hinojosa to facilitate the South Texas program.

Baggerly-Hinojosa is the owner of Leadership Empowerment Group headquartered in the Valley. She also runs a doctorate leadership program at the La Feria campus of Our Lady of the Lake University of San Antonio.

The Emerging Leaders Initiative breaks down into five modules.

The first covers strategic assessment, or setting the stage for growth. Following are modules on finances, cash flow and bottom-line issues; marketing and sales; and a module on getting the resources one needs to achieve a specific growth plan.

In the final segment, participants will have to prepare and deliver a detailed final presentation of a three-year strategic growth action plan. This must include benchmarks and performance targets to emerge as a self-sustaining business, Burton says.

The SBA has a reputation for its frequent training workshops for small business owners, but the Emerging Leaders program offers a more advanced curriculum. “A lot of the time when we put on trainings and workshops they are for start-ups,” Burton says. “This program is targeting folks who have been in business at least three years. It’s different in that it’s for folks who are ready to grow and take their business to the next level.”

George Cox is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years experience as a newspaper writer and editor. A Corpus Christi native, he started his career as a reporter for The Brownsville Herald after graduating from Sam Houston State University with a degree in journalism. He later worked on newspapers in Laredo and Corpus Christi as well as northern California. George returned to the Valley in 1996 as editor of The Brownsville Herald and in 2001 moved to Harlingen as editor of the Valley Morning Star. He also held the position of editor and general manager for the Coastal Current, a weekly entertainment magazine with Valleywide distribution. George retired from full-time journalism in 2015 to work as a freelance writer and legal document editor. He continues to live in Harlingen where he and his wife Katherine co-founded Rio Grande Valley Therapy Pets, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising public awareness of the benefits of therapy pets and assisting people and their pets to become registered therapy pet teams.