Pipeline For Entrepreneurs: SBA Initiative Aims To Help Grow Small Businesses

By Steve Clark
The Brownsville Herald, Texas

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) To be eligible for the SBA initiative, candidates must generate between $250,000 and $10 million a year in revenue, have been in business at least three years, and have at least one employee other than themselves.


Just as the Women Entrepreneurs’ Small Business Boot Camp has helped many dozens of women (and a few men) become entrepreneurs, a program newly available in the Lower Rio Grande Valley is designed to assist established entrepreneurs in growing their businesses.

Angela Burton, director of the U.S. Small Business Administration Lower Rio Grande Valley District, advocated to bring SBA’s “Emerging Leaders Initiative” to the Lower Valley.

ELI is a no-cost, intensive entrepreneurship course consisting of nearly 100 hours of classroom time and opportunities to work with experienced coaches and mentors, and make connections with peers, local leaders and the financial community.

Recruitment is underway for the 2019 training cohort. Classes begin in mid-April and run through November. Classes will take place at the UTRGV Center for Innovation and Commercialization in Weslaco. The location was chosen in an effort to draw enrollment from around the Valley, Burton said.

The response has been great so far, she added, and said her office has received a number of inquiries from potential candidates.

To be eligible, candidates must generate between $250,000 and $10 million a year in revenue, have been in business at least three years, and have at least one employee other than themselves. Candidates are expected to attend all 13 workshops and seven mentoring sessions, and complete required course work.

“We’re really picking folks that are very interested and that are going to be dedicated, and that are going to attend all the sessions,” Burton said. “Once we’ve received all the applications we’ll probably do interviews. We need to make sure folks are serious about it.”

Burton likened the program to “mini-MBA training” that gives small-business owners the opportunity to “work on their business instead of in their business.” Often, small-business owners get caught up in the day-to-day operations and neglect building their businesses for the future, she said.

Burton, who launched the women’s boot camp in 2009 as executive director of the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, said she envisions a pipeline of entrepreneurs from the boot camp to the Emerging Leaders program. The boot camp, now administered by the Women’s Business Center Rio Grande Valley, has graduated 221 people since the beginning.

“You may have gone through the boot camp several years ago and you’ve got a business up and running,” Burton said.

“I see this as a way for folks to continue their education.”

Bringing the Emerging Leaders Initiative to the Lower Valley represents a significant investment on the part of SBA, she said.

“This is to make sure small businesses thrive, and that’s what’s important to me,” Burton said. “My job is to make sure to get the tools out there so folks can be successful.”

For more information or to apply, go to, call (956) 427-8533 ext. 231, or email

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