West Texas Business Navigator Program
Thanks to a $1 million grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the Abilene Chamber is piloting an expanded a brand new program titled the West Texas Business Navigator program to better reach underserved communities.
The SBA announced the grant opportunity—the Community Navigator Pilot Program—in May 2021 with the goal of bringing business support to underserved entrepreneurs. The program is part of the American Rescue Plan initiative which aims to provide assistance during economic recovery. The Abilene Chamber is one of 51 grantees nationwide, and one of two organizations in Texas to receive the funding; the project will take place over two years.
Developing an inclusive business environment for all
“Your Chamber is focused on accelerating Abilene’s business friendliness and developing an inclusive business environment for all. Through the help of this grant and our community partners, we know that we’re getting closer to reaching those goals,” said Laura Moore, The Grace Museum and 2021-2022 Chamber Chair. “We hope you’ll join us in celebrating what this grant means for the future of our area business community.”
Hub & Spoke Model Program
This program is designed to reduce barriers to accessing critical resources for small businesses—with a focus on microenterprises, cooperatives, and businesses in the early stages of development—owned by women, socially and economically disadvantaged, and underserved entrepreneurs. Through the Hub & Spoke Model, the Abilene Chamber serves as the program “hub” connecting businesses to “spokes”— who help connect to specific sectors of the entrepreneurial community.
Meet the spokes
Abilene Black Chamber of Commerce
The purpose of the Abilene Black Chamber is to stimulate the economic, cultural, and social environment of Abilene for all people in general and Black people specifically, and to create a climate which enhances these developments. Learn more.
HERU Community Development Corporation
HERU takes a holistic approach to building underserved communities through traditional methods and the latest ideas that create ‘buy in”” from the community-at-large. Learn more.
West Central Texas Council of Governments
West Central Texas Council of Governments is a political subdivision or governmental unit of the state of Texas serving the 19 counties, including cities and other districts, of Brown, Callahan, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland, Fisher, Haskell, Jones, Kent, Knox, Mitchell, Nolan, Runnels, Scurry, Shackelford, Stephens, Stonewall, Taylor and Throckmorton in a rural area encompassing 18,000 square miles. They aim to provide consultative and technical assistance work to improve small business opportunities throughout the 18 rural county Big Country region. Learn more.
Abilene Industrial Foundation
A division of the Abilene Chamber, the Abilene Industrial Foundation works to help the dreamers start up and grow, to help existing businesses expand. Learn more.
The Mission of Cisco College is to provide quality, affordable, educational opportunities to meet the diverse academic, technical and career needs of the students and communities we serve. Cisco is pleased to be a part of the training that can assist individuals with the specific skills that are needed to build a successful small business. Learn more.
Other partners include the America’s Small Business Development Center at Texas Tech – Abilene, City of Abilene, and Northwest Texas Procurement Technical Assistance Center.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if my small business qualifies for the program?
The target demographic for this program includes, but is not limited to, small business owners who are women, minorities, disabled, veterans or are located in the rural 19-counties that make up the Big Country.
Does this program provide financial assistance for my business?
Unfortunately, there is not any financial support provided through this program. We aim to be your partner in your small business journey and help provide opportunities for technical assistance, training and mentoring for small business owners that meet the qualifications and the employees that work for them. However, our team is happy to help connect you to other organizations who can help in this area. Reach out to us today!
I’m not currently in the city limits of Abilene – do I qualify for this program?
With the help of our spoke the West Central Texas Council of Governments, we’re able to serve Brown, Callahan, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland, Fisher, Haskell, Jones, Kent, Knox, Mitchell, Nolan, Runnels, Scurry, Shackelford, Stephens, Stonewall, Taylor and Throckmorton County.
What type of time commitment is associated with the program for my business?
That’s the beauty of this program – the time commitment is 100 percent up to you! There will be trainings offered at various times, and you can choose to participate in one or more. Mentoring will be another service and you will determine your level of involvement with your mentor.
I’m not currently a member of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. Does my business qualify?
You do not have to be a member of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce, but we’d love to be a partner with you on your journey! Learn more about gaining a dedicated partner on your business journey working to help you – and the community – succeed.
What can I anticipate if I sign-up for this program?
Fill out the form on the bottom of this page, and you’ll be contacted by one one of our team members to determine qualification. You will then be provided with a variety of opportunities that match your priorities and needs!
What is the life-span of this program?
Funding for the project is over a two-year period ending in November 2023.
How is the Small Business Administration involved?
Through this program, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is engaging with states, local governments, SBA resource partners, and other organizations in targeted outreach for small businesses in underserved communities. To learn more about this pilot program, click here.
I’m not interested in going through the program, but feel I could bring value in some way. Is there a role for me?
Absolutely! As they prepare for and execute this project, each of the community spokes will be seeking out entrepreneurial and business leaders in their communities to serve as partners and mentors. If you’re interested in connecting with any of the spoke organizations to serve in this way, reach out to us HERE.