Meet Local Entrepreneurs Who Highlight SBA Assistance as Essential to Small Businesses Success

Release Date: 
Thursday, July 24, 2014
Release Number: 
PGH 14-09
Janet Heyl

Elizabeth Zekir, 28, cosmetologist and owner of Simple Indulgence Salon and Spa in Belle Vernon, Pa., will help detangle the perceptions of small business lending during a Meet the Lenders forum.

Zekir, one of more than 416 entrepreneurs who received funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration [SBA] Pittsburgh District Office this fiscal year, hopes to illustrate that cutting through the red tape mistakenly associated with SBA capital access programs can be managed – just like a bad hair day.

The SBA Pittsburgh District Office along with Seton Hill University’s E-Magnify are joining forces with The River Town Program to present this free symposium at the Point Marion Volunteer Fire Department, July 31 from 9 to 11 a.m.

“Representatives from economic development organizations and SBA-participating lending institutions are taking part in this unique and interactive event focusing on both entrepreneurship and capital access,” said Mark Protch SBA lender relations specialist.  “More than 20 resource partners are available to assist small business owners through 10-minute presentations and face-to-face meetings.”

Zekir, who worked with the Washington County Council on Economic Development (WCCED), said the organization was phenomenal helping her obtain an SBA microloan in just three months.

April Cacia, WCCED loan officer, said her organization has approved 20 SBA microloans this fiscal year and often can provide answers to borrowers within one month.  “We ask potential borrowers for an application, business plan, as well as three years of tax returns and financial projections, plus we do pull a credit score,” Cacia explained.  “We also conduct a site visit to better gage how the funds will be used.”

According to Dan Reitz, WCCED executive director, a number of contributing factors enable applicants to receive a microloan.  “We look at a person’s character, experience and passion for their business,” he said. “We do look at a credit report to make sure people are paying their bills, but have approved individuals [for microloans] with credit scores ranging from the low-400s to the mid-800s.”

Microloans are an SBA program that provides very small loans through nonprofit intermediaries, like the WCCED, to business owners. These entrepreneurs can use the cash infusion for just about anything from working capital or the purchase of furniture, fixtures or supplies. Microloan lenders also offer technical support throughout the life of the loan.

Cacia added that entrepreneurs not possessing a business plan or financial projections are referred to a small business development center (SBDC) or women’s business center (WBC) for assistance.

The SBDCs and WBCs are made up of a unique collaboration of the SBA, state and local governments, and private sector resources and provide a vast array of technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.  As a result of the no cost, extensive, one-on-one, long-term professional business advising, low-cost training and other specialized services SBDC clients receive, the program remains one of the nation’s largest small business assistance programs in the federal government.   The SBA Pittsburgh District Office is home to eight SBDCs and one WBC.

Zekir, who at 24 decided she wanted to do more than cut hair, went back to school to obtain a business degree at Westmoreland County Community College spending any free time trimming tresses and working at a local beauty supply store to learn yet another aspect of salon ownership.

Fourteen months ago, with the financial backing of her student peers, the new business graduate purchased an existing, full-service salon via an article of agreement.  Zekir is using the funds from her microloan to pay back the owners, her classmates and give the salon a much-needed makeover -- purchasing new tanning beds and converting an empty room into a separate spa.

The owner-operator, who started shampooing at 16 and received her cosmetology license in high school, said the salon is thriving – doubling its monthly income – thanks to the SBA microloan.  “I would recommend the SBA to anyone,” she stated.

According to Pittsburgh SBA Acting District Director Kevin White, this program is designed to help all small business owners.  “Attendees not only will learn about microloans, but also our popular 7(a) and 504 loan programs.  We’ll even address loans for the hospitality and tourism industry.” he said.  “And, if you’re thinking about small business ownership, you’ll be able to speak directly with entrepreneurs, like Elizabeth Zekir, and representatives from our network of resource partners who can point you in the right direction.”

 The free Meet the Lenders Event will be held on July 31 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at the Point Marion Volunteer Fire Department, 1 Cheat Street, Point Marion, PA  15474

 Seating is limited; reserve your space by contacting Cathy McCollom at or at 814-395-9139.  Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.

The U.S. Small Business Administration – helping small businesses start, grow and succeed.