By Maria Elena Hernandez
RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Lou Castro sat next to a small barbecue pit holding containers of TXQ Rubs, at the UTRGV Community Engagement & Student Success Building in Edinburg.
His family owns the Brownsville-based meat rub business.
“You start off with a small idea like we did. And we’re very fortunate that we turned it into something pretty decent. And we did it as a family,” Castro said.
TXQ Rubs was one of the businesses featured in UTRGV’s Spirit of the Entrepreneur: Small Business Showcase, held earlier this fall. Other businesses at the event included a Vietnamese eatery in Pharr called Snowbite and Vintage Tile & Stone, a flooring company based in McAllen.
The U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy reports small businesses account for 44 percent of U.S. economic activity. All of the participants at the expo were developing their own business by using services available at the UTRGV Small Business Development Center, the UTRGV Veterans Business Outreach Center, or the UTRGV Procurement & Technical Assistance Center.
“The networking that they provide, and the expertise and knowledge available to somebody coming new into a business, is invaluable,” Castro said.
Elizabeth Govea, with Vintage Tile & Stone, said the business takes advantage of many of the development centers’ services.
“We used practically all of them. We came to get HUB certification. We did training through UTRGV’s PTAC (Procurement Technical Assistance Center). Every event they had, we came to it,” Govea said.
She credits the business development centers with helping her secure a loan that led her to one of the biggest contracts she has ever had.
“They were instrumental in getting us to where we needed to be,” Govea said.
The business development centers are part of the UTRGV Office of Community Engagement and Economic Development. They help create and develop small businesses, as well as provide training for people interested in governmental contracting.
Candi Marroquin, also of Vintage Tile & Stone, said the business development centers can help when small businesses sometimes bounce around trying to find the right contacts.
“If you’re not sure how to fill out a certain government form or reach out to a municipality, their Rolodex is long and extensive. And they can help you get to the right person,” she said.
ROLE IN THE COMMUNITY
Connie Nguyen, the owner of Snowbite, said she benefitted in a number of ways from the business development centers.
“Besides having an advisor, they become your friend and help you reach out to your community in so many different ways,” she said.
The role small businesses play in communities will be highlighted this weekend during Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30. Last year, about $17.5 billion was spent during the shopping holiday, which encourages people to buy from small and independent businesses.
The National Federation of Independent Business reports the total includes not just holiday shopping, but also purchases at other types of businesses, like restaurants.
Aspiring or current business owners can get more information online about the resources available to build and expand their small business at the UTRGV business development centers: