ND Small Business Development Centers
ND Small Business Development Centers

Powering the creation, growth, and success of small business in North Dakota.

May 2024


When the ND SBDC revised our mission, vision, and values, each team member felt strongly about a specific value: Culture. While most might read that and think, well, “culture” isn’t a value. As our conversations began to shape the idea behind it, we felt that was the most all-encompassing word to describe our intent:

We embrace a learning culture that recognizes the importance of others’ expertise, talents, experiences, and needs, encouraging personal and professional growth while appreciating diversity in all matters, extending courtesy, dignity, and respect.

Not only did we want it to focus on ourselves and our internal culture, but we also wanted it to reflect our acknowledgment and efforts to better understand the many cultures within our state, of those that we serve each and every day, and how that enhances our view of where we live and what is important.

SBDC programs across the country have a top-level priority to ensure that historically underserved populations have access to our resources and services. Historically underserved is, in fact, quite broad in what it covers, and some markets included in this term might surprise you – like “rural.” Rural populations are included as a historically underserved market because accessibility to services and resources is often more challenging to those that live in rural areas. Other populations and markets that are considered historically underserved include women, veterans and other military affiliation, socially-disadvantaged, persons with a disability, LGBTQ+, those that identify as a minority (racial, ethnic, or religious), and New Americans.

A few years ago, our network responded to this priority by identifying a staff person to concentrate services and outreach to any and all underserved populations. Tyler Demars, our Bismarck Center Director, has been serving in this capacity for a few years and partnering with other individuals from communities across the state to connect and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to advance their entrepreneurial dreams and benefit from its rewards. Targeted trainings events are brought to specific populations as they look to start their own businesses in their community, including New Americans settling into their new lives from the Ukraine, or Africa, or Native Americans working to support their family and community. Collaborating with partners to improve options for clients working towards achieving entrepreneurial goals is another way we support, for example, working with a financial institution to structure financing options acceptable under Sharia law helped a client’s project come to fruition, because the terms dictating normal capital packages defied what was acceptable under their religion.

Throughout our network, each one of our centers have regular touchpoints
with underserved communities and populations. The above situations are only a few of the many instances where the ND SBDC team has advocated for the needs of a client or community in order to support their entrepreneurial dreams and help them achieve their goals. In 2023, more than 400 clients self-identified as a minority. That is almost a 300% increase over the same data point in 2017. Female clients served in 2023 showed an increase of more than 200% from 2017, at nearly 1,200 female clients. Rural businesses served by our network also continue to show an upward trend.

Year after year, we see more diversity in our clients, and we realize that
we are not only sharing our knowledge but learning from them as well. The ND SBDC is committed to assisting underserved individuals and communities by improving their access to entrepreneurship, seizing opportunities, and overcoming their unique challenges. We recognize that this mission cannot be achieved alone and are deeply grateful and honored to collaborate with various organizations across our state to support all of our neighbors as they navigate their entrepreneurial journeys.

Thank you,
Tiffany Ford, State Director



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