Friday, October 14, 2022
When you have faith as wide as the ocean, the possibilities are limitless. The CNMI Small Business Development Center Network is hosting the first ever Supporting Entrepreneurs and Economic Development (SEED) to Sail – a rendition of ABC's Shark Tank. SEED to Sail was designed to help the culinary graduate start a food truck business, the tech-savvy professional meet digital needs, the food connoisseur pursue their dream of opening their one-of-a-kind restaurant idea to complement the CNMI’s tourism industry, or the classically trained dancer to open their own studio to help cater to our youth.
Although our work at SEED to Sail is on a small scale, we believe that starting small is preferable to not starting at all. As an SBDC, we recognize that the most difficult challenge for most small businesses is accessing capital. SEED to Sail addresses this issue by giving our aspiring entrepreneurs and existing business community an opportunity to harness ideas and equip them with the necessary capital to jumpstart their business. In addition, we provide guidance whether through counseling, training, or connecting them with the right professional business advisor who can take their prototype idea to a full-blown success of an operation.
Even during the COVID-19 Pandemic, many new businesses sprouted– restaurants, beauty stores, cafes, and others. As the majority being ran by first-time entrepreneurs, we saw a clear need for guidance when providing technical assistance to our business community through the Office of the Governor's Building Optimism, Opportunities, and Stability Together (BOOST) program. Whether it’s assisting clients with their business plans or realizing their target market, our goal was to help guide our entrepreneurs.
If it were up to the SBDC, we'd have a SEED to Sail project every quarter. The reality is that the funds provided by the BOOST program is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and as such, we wanted to maximize our chances of assisting our business community by organizing SEED to Sail.
A selection panel dealt with the challenging task to narrow down the 55 applicants to five finalists for the first category and three finalists for the second category. In preparation for the event, the SBDC hosted several rehearsals leading up to tonight. Part of the selection process was reviewing applicants’ business plans and conducting consultation sessions. The turnout allowed the SBDC to realize the potential in admitting some of tonight’s finalists into the SBDC Incubator program. The winner of the first category, which includes finalists who have been in business for less than a year, will receive $20,000 in seed money as well as an automatic admission into the SBDC Incubator program where their first year of commercial rental space will be paid for among other things.
Ultimately, what we’re hoping will come out of tonight’s event is that 8 new businesses will be started, and realized. This means more jobs for our people, more product and service options for our community, and more revenue to assist in improved public services and infrastructure for our Commonwealth. Though SEED to Sail won’t drastically change our economic health overnight, it most certainly will be a step in the right direction.
On behalf of the CNMI SBDC Network, we are extremely appreciative of everyone involved in our inaugural event. Our panel of judges consists of a diverse group of people who were carefully chosen to represent a specific aspect of the industry and way of thinking. This includes representation of women in business, professors from institutions of higher learning, media, and individuals from banking and financial institutions. We’re excited to have them on board, and most certainly do not envy them as we know how hard their jobs will be this evening.
Although the CNMI Small Business Development Center Network is sponsoring tonight’s event, we could not have done this alone. It takes partnerships and stakeholders who believe in our mission and support our vision, and it starts with our host institution, the Northern Marianas College (NMC).
NMC saw the potential in the CNMI having its own Lead Center and Network. Without their guidance and leadership, the SBDC would not be what it is today. For this, we pledge our dedication to work hard and service our community as best we can by providing the best no-cost training and consultation opportunities for our aspiring business owners to avail of.
The SBDC would also like to thank our sponsors for whom without their support, tonight’s event would not have been made possible: the CNMI Office of the Governor, Priority Care and Saipan Renal Care, Bank of Saipan, Tan Siu Lin Foundation, IT&E, KKMP, Turnkey Solutions, Docomo Pacific, Power 99, Bank of Hawaii, WESTCO, D&Q and the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.
SEED to Sail is being hosted by the CNMI SBDC Network in partnership with the University of Guam Masters in Public Administration CNMI Graduating Class of 2023 cohort.
I would like to humbly invite the community to tune into the SEED to Sail livestream from 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM on NMC’s Facebook page. Let us all support our aspiring entrepreneurs as they take part in what could potentially change their lives, and their businesses.
On behalf of the CNMI SBDC Network, good luck to all our contestants! I have seen the hard work that you all have put in to take your businesses to the next level. Together, We Can!
Disclaimer: The CNMI Small Business Development Center Network (CNMI SBDCN) comprises the CNMI SBDC Lead Center located in Saipan, the Rota SBDC, and the Tinian SBDC. CNMI SBDCN is partially funded by a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration “SBA” and the Northern Marianas College. All opinions, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA. For more information visit the GCEA website at cnmieconomy.com. Engage with the Council on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy) or contact them at email@example.com.
By Nadine C. Deleon Guerrero
Nadine C. Deleon Guerrero is the CNMI SBDC Network network director. Prior to assuming her current role, Nadine served on the CNMI Cannabis Commission board as its chairwoman where she had direct oversight on establishing the CNMI’s cannabis industry. Nadine has over 22 years of professional experience and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Administration with the University of Guam.