Up Front With Gita Runkle: SMC Small Business Development Center Director
Posted May. 7, 2013, 9:12 am
Brenton Garen / Editor-in-Chief
Gita Runkle serves at the Director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) hosted by Santa Monica College. She recently moved back to Southern California from Miami, Florida.
She started working with the SBDC in August 2012 and has made it her goal to develop more strategic partnerships in the community, including with private industry, governmental, and community based organizations.
She has several years of experience working in marketing at companies such as Procter & Gamble and Royal Caribbean.
She also has many years of experience working in higher education at such institutions as UC Berkeley, New York University, and Miami Dade College.
Runkle has an MBA in Entrepreneurship & Marketing from the University of Southern California, an MA in Higher Education from New York University, and a BA in Multi-Media from UC Berkeley.
She is a member of the Rotary Club of Santa Monica.
How did the Small Business Development Center come about?
The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) hosted by Santa Monica College (SMC) is part of the Los Angeles Regional SBDC Network, which is part of a 35 center network throughout California and 1,000 service center network throughout the United States. The SBDC’s services are funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and also funded in part by state, local, and private sector partners.
The SBDC network is the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the United States. The mission of the network is to help new entrepreneurs realize their dream of business ownership, and assist existing businesses to remain competitive in the complex marketplace of an ever-changing global economy.
SMC has been hosting the SBDC for over six years now and looks forward to continuing this service for the small business community. As Director of the SBDC hosted by SMC, my main role is to inform the community of our services, attract clients to our center, fundraise, and build partnerships in the community.
How important is the center to small business owners?
The SBDC is very important to small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs as it provides free business consulting and low-cost training workshops to help entrepreneurs start and/or grow their businesses, which in turn helps them to create jobs and strengthen the local economy.
What makes the center unique?
The SBDC staff is what makes the center unique. Our consultants have a passion for helping small businesses launch and grow. They have extensive knowledge and practical experience in a variety of fields including: writing a business plan, loan packaging and lender referrals, government contracting, international trade, marketing, web design, retail, sustainability/green business development, etc. Most of our consultants have been business owners or managers themselves, many have advanced degrees, and several are bilingual. Our consultants’ combined experience covers almost every size and type of business and they work as a team to deliver the best recommendations – guiding entrepreneurs and small business owners every step of the way.
Looking to the future, how do you think the center will evolve?
The SBDC is proactively seeking out partnerships with state, local, and private sector partners to expand our services into the community. Most recently, we have developed a partnership with the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce to offer SBDC services at the Chamber office. Once per week, an SBDC consultant will be available at the Santa Monica Chamber to provide free business consulting to its members.
Similarly, the SBDC is collaborating with the Culver City Chamber of Commerce, LA Area Chamber of Commerce, and the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
In addition, the SBDC is in the process of developing relationships with Silicon Beach organizations to meet the needs of this fast-growing industry.
What’s the interaction with Santa Monica College and the community to date?
Since the SBDC is hosted by Santa Monica College, the SBDC has been very engaged with the college since the beginning. The SBDC offers its services to SMC students, faculty and staff. The SBDC has also customized presentations and workshops for the SMC community. Likewise, the SBDC has been very engaged with the community, including the City of Santa Monica, Santa Monica Reads, Sustainable Works, Urban Youth Academy, The Rotary Club of Santa Monica, Employment Development Department, SCORE, and many more.