Small Business Lenders Find Value in Business Education and Resources from the UGA SBDC

Kim Broun

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024

Whether it’s small business planning, market development, access to capital, record keeping or general business consultation, the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (UGA SBDC) can assist business owners in any stage of their growth.

Lending institutions are also discovering the benefits of working with the UGA SBDC.

Josh Walton, a former banker and now district director at the UGA SBDC, sees the mutual advantages that the UGA SBDC and lending institutions can provide each other. Together, the UGA SBDC and lenders work to help achieve the common goal of helping business clients obtain working capital.

“When putting together loan packages, there are certain things lenders need that the SBDC can help their borrowers produce, like market information, industry comparable data, financial projections and analysis,” said Walton. “Lenders can use these informational resources to help make good credit decisions.”

In addition to helping the lenders, these resources help the borrower as well.

“When we work with our UGA SBDC clients to help them produce these materials for the lender, it really makes the client a more educated business owner,” said Walton.

Educating clients on business plans and financial projections

Charles Gillis, vice president of small business lending at Colony Bank, agrees. Colony Bank has locations throughout Georgia, so when Gillis comes across clients who need assistance with behind-the-scenes business tasks, he refers them to the UGA SBDC.

“At least 50% of our customers are not educated enough in business financials,” said Gillis. “Our client may run the business well but may not know how to put together a business plan, projections or assumptions. This is where the UGA SBDC has been a very valuable tool for me to guide them through that process.”

Gillis connected with Darrel Hulsey, director of UGA SBDC’s International Trade Center, through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Gillis had a client seeking an international trade loan specifically to expand their international trade efforts.

“Part of the requirements for the international trade loan requires the business owner to come up with an export plan to define their strategy for expanding their exports,” said Hulsey. “Charles had to have those plans in order to process this loan, and that’s where we stepped in to help the client prepare those materials.”

Thanks to the UGA SBDCs assistance, the loan was a success. Since then, Hulsey has been able to work with Gillis on several deals.

“It’s a mutually beneficial setting,” said Hulsey. “Before working as a UGA SBDC consultant, I was a banker. At both organizations, it was a priority to make sure clients are taken care of and are making the most competent decision they can. The UGA SBDC provides a source of information that helps business owners make better decisions in their business.”

UGA SBDC consultants offer continued education and resources

When lenders send clients to the UGA SBDC, the work first focuses on the business plans and financial projections needed for the loan application. But the client’s relationship with the UGA SBDC doesn’t end after funding is secured. That’s one reason Brad Hunnings at Wells Fargo in Savannah continues to send clients to Becky Brownlee, area director at the UGA SBDC in Savannah.

“Becky continues to collaborate with her clients well beyond our loan work together,” said Hunnings. “She strives to have a long-term transformational consulting practice, rather than a short-term transactional relationship with her clients.”

Brownlee values the relationship she has with lenders, including Wells Fargo.

“We speak the business and loan language, where a lot of business owners may not,” said Brownlee. “We can help them through the loan process and after that is done, we can direct them to other resources and actions outside of the transaction, such as human resources, marketing and accounting.”

Making valuable connections through sponsorship

Darrell Byrd, vice president of the SBA division at Cadence Bank, has found value in sponsoring the UGA SBDC’s continuing education events. Over the past few years, Cadence Bank has been a five-time sponsor of the Buying a Business program at the UGA SBDC in Macon.

“The program has been well attended and unbelievably successful,” said Peter Williams, senior business consultant and program facilitator.

Byrd made a connection with an attendee of the 2023 program and helped the individual close on a $5 million SBA loan in February 2024.

In addition to the value the sponsorship brings, Byrd also appreciates the quality of the business plans and financial projections he receives from UGA SBDC clients when they are applying for a loan.  

“The projections from clients that work with the UGA SBDC actually mean something,” said Byrd. “Our credit team has a lot of faith working with projections from UGA SBDC clients.”

Over the past five years, individuals who have sought assistance from the UGA SBDC have created more than 2,100 new businesses, added more than 14,000 jobs, raised more than $1.11 billion in loan and equity financing, and generated over $9.5 billion in sales.

According to the latest impact study, firms that sought UGA SBDC assistance experienced job growth of 21.1% versus 4.4% growth of a typical firm.

To learn more about the UGA SBDC, visit