SEAS Opens Harlem Small Business Development Center

The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science has become the first university to establish a regional small business development center (SBDC) in Harlem. It is also only the second academic institution in the country to have an SBDC tied to an engineering school.

Through this SBDC, administered by SEAS’s Center for Technology, Innovation, and Community Engagement (CTICE), small businesses in the Harlem community will be able to take advantage of the School’s existing community-based, academically-driven programming. Tapping the talents of Columbia students, business owners participating in the program will receive business counseling that covers management and technical assistance services from cost-analysis to Internet commerce to employee management.

At the helm of the new program is Alex Yepes (left), managing director of the Columbia-Harlem SBDC.  Yepes, who was previously with Columbia’s Center for Career Education, will be working with the University’s Office of Government and Community Affairs and the New York State SBDC, and coordinating support from the Business School, the Law School’s Nonprofit Organizations/Small Business Clinic, and the School of Social Work’s Center for Social Policy and Practice in the Workplace.

“We have received a great deal of support from the New York State Small Business Development Center, which oversees all regional centers,” says Yepes. “It is encouraging to see that New York State leaders understand the potential that universities such as Columbia can bring to community development. Being among a cohort of experienced, successful entrepreneurs has been invaluable to us. This will provide a rich, unique academic opportunity for our students. The range of business ventures, scope, and opportunity for impact is broad, and our students have really risen to the challenge.”

Within a relatively short period of time, the Columbia-Harlem SBDC has begun to empower the next generation of Harlem entrepreneurs, says Yepes.  “We are fortunate that the combination of resources from SEAS and from the SBDC allows our program to offer small businesses a unique opportunity to create, stabilize, and grow in this difficult economic period.”