Some 270,000 small businesses were operating in Nevada in 2019, with small businesses employing roughly 40 percent of the state’s workforce, a federal report said. During the pandemic, more than 35 percent of those businesses shuttered their doors for good, according to Lt. Gov. Lisa Cano Burkhead.
Now, a new state office has set its sights on helping small businesses thrive and avoid such a fate. The Office of Small Business Advocacy, which serves as a central hub for small businesses to access resources and government representation of their interests, would have been especially helpful early in the pandemic, Burkhead said.
The Office of Small Business Advocacy serves as a central hub for small businesses to access resources and government representation of their interests. The advocacy office, which works out of Burkhead’s office, was created through Assembly Bill 184 in 2021 and aims to facilitate business growth in Nevada.
Small business owners in Nevada have a trove of resources available to them but many may not realize it, said Sonny Vinuya, the office’s director and the former president and CEO of the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce.
‘Point them in the right direction’
OSBA aims to connect businesses with the resources they need, compile data on the most pressing issues and optimize different processes such as business registration and licensure, he said. The office will rely on surveys as well as conversations with business groups and individual owners to keep apprised of their biggest needs.
The office will also field complaints and requests from businesses when it’s up and running in the next couple of weeks. Vinuya envisions the office identifying gaps in existing programs, increasing awareness of available resources and making recommendations to better serve the state’s small businesses.
“Oftentimes, small businesses do not have an HR department, nor do they have an attorney,” Burkhead said Tuesday. “And so really we can help facilitate and kind of point them in the right direction, so that they’re able to get the answers that they need and understand what resources are available to them.”
OSBA will work in tandem with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Department of Business and Industry. For now, the advocacy office is just Vinuya, though plans are in the works to hire a second person and to eventually expand, said Burkhead, who also sits on the economic development office board.
While with the Asian Chamber of Commerce, Vinuya said he found that many member business owners didn’t apply for Paycheck Protection Program pandemic loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration because English wasn’t their first language.
“They were intimidated by it,” Vinuya said Monday. The chamber began offering webinars in their first languages “with somebody from their community that they trusted, just to give us validity. And that’s when it kind of opened up and we had people applying.”
A focus on outreach
One of Vinuya’s first orders of business is working with the Department of Business and Industry to expand translation services for the department’s 56-page “road map” guide for starting and growing a business. The business road map offers tips and tricks to successfully navigate the numerous factors that can trip up business owners: taxes, permits, licenses, funding, networking, hiring and funding among them.
People often don’t know where to look for help or that they even need help with the intricacies of running a business, said Marcel Schaerer, deputy director with the department. They may know their trade, product or service and have the desire to start a business, while lacking the knowledge of structuring a business and other basics.
OSBA will complement the department and economic development office as a go-to hub for small businesses because “they are in the trenches day in and day out,” he said.
“We need this component of outreach directly interacting with the businesses, so if (Vinuya’s) that bridge, that will be very helpful,” Schaerer said.