Over the last two years, the Alabama SBDC Network has helped companies obtain over $131 million in new capital, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Suzanne Darden. Darden, who leads the Capital Access Program at the Alabama SBDC Network, has been awarded the “State Star” award from the Association of Small Business Development Centers in recognition of her contributions to serving Alabama’s small business community. The national association presented Darden with the award in Washington, DC on September 4th, among her peers at the group’s annual conference.
The statewide Alabama Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, an economic development and outreach service based at The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business, provides no-cost management and technical assistance to small businesses in all 67 counties. Suzanne, who offices at the Greater Birmingham SBDC at Innovation Depot, has worked with over 100 businesses and entrepreneurs over the last two years, directly helping them with over $16 million in capital acquisition. She serves as a resource and finance expert for the other 35+ SBDC employees at the Network’s ten locations.
Companies can’t hide their appreciation for her work. “I’ve been in business for 42 years, and I’ve never experienced anything like the dedication and determination that Suzanne Darden has shown towards me and my business,” says Randy Smith of Smith Printing & Office Supply.
Kim Wirth, of the Collegiate Hotel, says, “As first time business owners, Suzanne Darden was a true partner in helping us make our dreams a reality. Starting a business is challenging and we could not have navigated the unknown and unexpected without her. The guidance and resources we received from the Alabama SBDC would have cost of thousands from consultants. I strongly encourage anyone thinking of starting a business to start with the SBDC.”
The State Director of the Alabama SBDC, Bill Cummins, said the award is “well-deserved recognition” for Darden. “She is a tremendous asset to Alabama’s small business community. Her dogged determination and passion for helping businesses start and grow, combined with her incredible technical skills, is tough to beat.”
Dr. Kay Palan, Dean of the Culverhouse College of Business at the University of Alabama, says “Suzanne is a valuable member of the economic development team at Culverhouse. Her efforts result in tangible, measurable impact, and directly support the University’s dedication to excellence in service.”
The State Star award is given annually to an outstanding business advisor from each SBDC network. Criteria include showing a strong commitment to small business success, making significant contributions to the state SBDC program, and being an exemplary performer.
Prior to joining the Alabama SBDC, Suzanne was the General Manager and CFO for a small business in the refrigeration and ice-making industry, and spent several years in commercial lending and client management at banks in Georgia and Virginia. She is a graduate of the College of William & Mary, and is originally from Williamsburg, VA.
The Alabama SBDC unlocks the potential of any business by providing business expertise normally reserved for large, established companies. Alabama’s small business community turns to the trusted business advisors at the Alabama SBDC for guidance on growing or starting a business, accessing capital, selling to the federal government, or exploring international trade.
The Alabama SBDC Network is funded in part through cooperative agreements with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Hosted by The University of Alabama. Nationally accredited by the Association of SBDCs, the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the United States.