Chamber luncheon hosts SBA regional administrator

Published 8:20 pm Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Ashey Bell knows about entrepreneurship and the struggle to be a small business owner. But the regional administrator for the Small Business Administration had some encouraging words and information for those attending Wednesday’s monthly luncheon of the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce.

“There should never be a small business that closes its doors who haven’t at least tried to come to SBA,” Bell said. “If you know somebody out there who is thinking about going out of business, don’t let them go quietly. There’s too many opportunities and too many resources available to give them another chance. Together we can make sure there are more doors opening than doors closing.”

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Bell, appointed by the Trump administration in February to oversee the SBA in eight southeastern states, started his first business while still in law school at the age of 22 and related how he had no clue on what he was doing when he first started out as a small business owner in his hometown of Gainesville, Georgia.

He learned the hard way and through his role with the SBA hopes to “make the road easier for others.”

His general merchandise store grew to three stores and he decided to sell his business to complete his law degree. He began his career as a public defender before becoming a trial attorney where he co-founded the law firm Bell & Washington based in Atlanta.

He encourages small business owners or potential entrepreneurs to seek out information from the SBA.

“Take advantage of this free service that your tax dollars paid for,” Bell said.

He also encouraged small business owners — “the backbone of our economy” — to hire and employ those who “deserve a second chance” and to help one another.

“You join a chamber for the mission of promoting economic development,” Bell said. “We need to be more conscience of the tools we all have to help our fellow business owners. Not everybody is meant to go to college. Not everybody is meant to work for somebody. We can’t forget that being an entrepreneur is a valid and treasured opportunity in this country. You can’t take that for granted. It is what separates us from the rest of the world.”

Bell also encouraged small business owners to not judge people in the community too quickly.

“I guarantee you, people that don’t have any other options to find traditional work, being an entrepreneur can change their life,” Bell said. “And to hire those people can change their life.”

Bell said the economy in the nation is great right now with more jobs available than people looking for work, but some are not getting that second chance.

“There’s a population of our folks that are still boxed out and looking for that second chance opportunity,” Bell said. “Nobody can give them that chance better than the men and women in this room who own small businesses. We’re a second chance country and believe anyone willing to work should be given that chance.”

For more information on the Small Business Development Center in Mississippi, visit