Mentors Increase Small Business Success

Lower Rio Grande Valley District Office
Release Date: 
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Release Number: 
Angela R. Burton, District Director

HARLINGEN – January is National Mentor Month, and a perfect time to connect with a counselor/mentor at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) who can guide you to business success.

In 2017, the Lower Rio Grande Valley District partners which include mentors at the Small Business Development Center, the Women’s Business Center, the Veteran’s Business Outreach Center and SCORE, provided counseling and training to 9,094 small businesses, and helped create or retain about 481 jobs.  These partners also helped start 111 new businesses in the area.

Mentors can be invaluable to small businesses. After all, it can be overwhelming to juggle dozens of responsibilities and roles at once. How much time could be saved by following the advice from someone who has already fought those battles? SBA mentors can help develop a business plan, obtain licenses, find the right lender and develop a marketing strategy to reach new customers.

Paola Carmona, owner of Pao Carmona Photography in Brownsville, Texas, was able to secure financing and triple the size of her studio, after seeking assistance from mentors at the Women’s Business Center of Cameron County (WBC). 

The WBC assisted Carmona with developing a business plan to secure a $15,000 microloan through LiftFund, a nonprofit loan fund committed to empowering small businesses with limited access to traditional sources of credit.

Carmona said the business plan helped her to organize her ideas and understand the steps she needed to take, as well as focus on where her business stood, and determine where she wanted to be for her business to grow.

“I had the idea that I wanted to move to San Antonio and after meeting for the counseling session, I thought why do I want to move when I can grow where I currently am?” Carmon said. “However, in order to grow, I needed a new location—to expand myself because the other location was not suitable for a bigger clientele.”

With the $15,000 loan, Carmona was able to relocate the photography business to a larger building and invest in more inventory.  Pao Carmona Photography can now accommodate more clients; sales have increased by 166 percent in the new downtown studio that is almost triple the size of her prior facility. She specializes in newborn, children, family, and maternity portraits.  Her studio has space for different back drops for various photo sessions and allows for a more comfortable session.

According to an SBA Office of Advocacy survey on only half of all small businesses survive more than five years and about 10-12 percent of all employee-based firms close each year.  This punctuates the advice to connect with a small business mentor who can be a game changer for small business.  Research proves that small businesses that receive three or more hours of mentoring achieve higher revenues and increased business growth.

Even better, according to a 2014 survey by The UPS Store (link is external), 70 percent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses.

Other sources of counseling and support
Check out these local resources committed to making your small business a success:

  • Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) serve more than one million small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs each year through free face-to-face business consulting, low-cost training (covering business planning, how to access capital, marketing, regulatory compliance, exporting and more). Funded in part by the SBA, SBDCs represent the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the U.S.  Locally, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley SBDC is located at 1407 E Freddy Gonzalez Dr #1.200, Edinburg, (956) 665-7535,
  • Women’s Business Centers are part of a nationwide network that provides business training, counseling and other resources to help women start and grow successful businesses. Tied closely to the SBA, WBCs are also able to advise women about business financing such as SBA loan programs. If you are interested in selling to the U.S. government, WBCs can also provide guidance and training resources to help you get started and navigate the process.  In Cameron County, the Women’s Business Center of Cameron County is located at 1600 University Blvd., Brownsville, (956) 542-5322,
  • SCORE volunteers are trained to serve as counselors, advisers and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners. SCORE Rio Grande Valley is located at 2422 E. Tyler Ave., Suite E, Harlingen, (956) 427-8623,
  • Veterans Business Outreach Centers provide training, advice, mentoring, business planning assistance and much more. Funded by the SBA, there are 16 centers across the U.S. ready to help.  The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley VBOC is located at 1407 E Freddy Gonzalez Dr #1.200, Edinburg, (956) 665-8931,

For more information about SBA mentors contact, the SBA’s Lower Rio Grande Valley District Office, at (956) 427-8533, or email to Visit

Harlingen, Texas is home to SBA’s Lower Rio Grande Valley District Office (LRGVD), with a branch office in Corpus Christi, Texas.  The district covers 14 of the 254 counties in the State of Texas and is comprised of a diverse landscape to include international ports of entry, beaches, deep sea ports, ranch land, and metropolitan cities.