Adriana I. Dawson is the state director of the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center at Johnson & Wales University. She is responsible for the complete oversight of SBDC, which provides several business and marketing resources to the small-business community.
Dawson had been serving as interim director of the SBDC since September 2011. She joined the program in August of 2002 and shortly thereafter implemented a very successful Latino Business Initiative which resulted in Rhode Island's first Latino Business Expo. The minority outreach model that Dawson developed garnered national recognition.
PBN: You have been the director of the SBDC for the last two months. What have you been working on?
DAWSON: I’m looking at our organization very differently, talking about innovation and what can we do differently, even what space we should occupy in the business landscape. In this new capacity it is important to get SBDC involved, making sure there is an awareness of what we do and how we do it.
PBN: Is the center open year-round?
DAWSON: Yes. Even though we have an affiliation with JWU we are there through the summer. We are open to help businesses year-round.
PBN: What have you found to be exciting?
DAWSON: Our program activity has picked up. Recognizing what some of the needs are in the business community, we want to engage in more dynamic and innovative projects. We’ve already participated in events with Google and Constant Contact, so we are getting involved with national entities that are interested in our state.
PBN: What are some common mistakes that small business make?
DAWSON: Right now the most common problem, regardless of industry or community sector, diverse or otherwise, is access to capital. That’s the biggest deterrent. Those who have started businesses on credit and who have been through most of their cash don’t appear to have the access to capital to hire more employees or by the equipment they need.
PBN: What is your immediate priority?
DAWSON: The SBDC is a very different organization than it was six years ago. The university sees the SBDC not only as a vehicle for students to explore entrepreneurship, to look that as a viable career option. But there is also a big benefit to the business community, because we have a lot of resources. We are not meant to compete with the private sector but instead be a partner.