The timing couldn’t have been worse. Hours before Buffalo Niagara SCORE was to hold its annual convention for local entrepreneurs, a day filled with speakers and seminars in conjunction with Buffalo’s U.S. Small Business Administration bureau, the federal government announced a shutdown, threatening the entire event.
SCORE, which partners closely with the SBA in mentoring and advising entrepreneurs, was ready. And with a few frantic, final adjustments, the event took place without a hitch.
“I was on the phone all day Friday and watching the TV, too,” SCORE Buffalo Niagara Chair John Vitale said about the federal government’s last-minute attempts to pass legislation which would fund government operations and agencies. “I realized around 10 p.m. it wasn’t going to happen.”
The shutdown lasted from midnight on Saturday, Jan. 20, until a short-term compromise was reached Monday, Jan. 22. Just long enough to pull the SBA’s involvement entirely from the convention.
The annual “Straight Talk” event was to be held at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, and more than 350 people were registered to attend. U.S. SBA administrator Linda McMahon was in town to give the keynote address, but could not attend the event, and the Buffalo SBA bureau, which leads many of the seminars during the day, could not participate due to the three-day shutdown.
That left SCORE to fill in the gaps. And Vitale said the organization was prepared, with minimal disruption to the planned schedule. Mayor Byron Brown was in attendance, as were other city and county representatives. Vitale added that despite some concern, enthusiasm remained the same for the high-energy event, and feedback has been positive.
“We had some contingency plans,” Vitale said. “SCORE stepped up and took the lead in the areas the SBA was slated to do.”
It was President Donald Trump-appointee McMahon’s second attempt at a speaking appearance in Buffalo after a previous engagement was postponed this fall. Vitale said he was not sure if she would make a third try.
The SBA’s Straight Talk event, co-sponsored by SCORE and now in its 22nd year, is the launch of an eight-part series that began Tuesday, Jan. 30, at Medaille College.
Focused toward entrepreneurs, seminar topics include how to build business and financial plans, risk management and insurance and tax instruction. Classes typically begin at 5:45 and cost $5 for participants.
Vitale said they expect about 100 people at each event, and in total approximately 1,000 will attend at least one class. Interested entrepreneurs can visit https://buffaloniagara.score.org/buffaloworkshops for more information.
SCORE’s Buffalo Niagara chapter works with about 1,200 clients a year, from entrepreneurs looking to start a restaurant to consultants needing business plan assistance. The organization provides mentorship, one-on-one advising, and networking to prospective business owners.
“Our mission really is to help build an environment for successful businesses in two ways: mentorship and education,” Vitale said.