Financial management and achieving growth, two issues facing inland area small business owners as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be the focus of a $65,000 Wells Fargo grant to Cal State San Bernardino’s Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship (IECE) in the Jack H. Brown College of Business and Public Administration.

The grant will support specific programs, activities and initiatives such as the Financial Fitness Program for Small Business Owners, Contracting Center and California Shop Small, which not only focus on financial management and achieving growth, but provide additional critical and targeted services to the minority-owned businesses located in the Inland Empire.

“Small businesses are the heartbeat of our inland communities. They pump life into our neighborhoods, creating vibrant places to live, work and raise families – and they are crucial to sustaining local jobs,” said Flor Tolley, Wells Fargo Philanthropy & Community Impact specialist. “While economic challenges continue for small businesses, we at Wells Fargo are focused on fostering an inclusive recovery and strengthening the small business sector for the long term. We’re proud to work with Cal State San Bernardino toward our goal of helping as many small businesses as we can, with a strong emphasis on supporting the needs faced by diverse small business owners.”

“The grant will help us address through targeted business counseling and training programs those key issues which were determined as a result of working directly with small business owners and a comprehensive survey with more than 1,400 small business responses,” said Mike Stull, IECE director and professor of entrepreneurship. “Ultimately this will help small businesses recover from the pandemic and grow to build sustainable resilience to navigate and survive future economic challenges.”

Overall, the goal of the IECE program is to support 150 small business owners and leverage the existing infrastructure, staff, faculty and funding support of the center and its primary business assistance programs such as the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and Women’s Business Center (WBC).

The Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State San Bernardino is one of the largest and most successful university-based Centers for Entrepreneurship in the world. Recognized by AACSB International as a Top 35 Global Program for fostering and supporting entrepreneurship, the IECE assists approximately 10,000 small business owners annually through its extensive network of five full-time and 10 part-time community offices. 

Since its founding in 1999, the IECE has supported more than 150,000 entrepreneurs with business counseling and training services, resulting in a regional economic impact of more than $400 million. Leading programs include the Women’s Business Center, Small Business Development Center, Spirit of the Entrepreneur Awards gala event, the Garner Holt Student Fast Pitch Competition and CSUSB Innovation Challenge Competition.