Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Debra Farley Retires From Small Business Development Center

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For more than three decades, the Peninsula’s small business community has been helped by Debra Hamilton Farley.

Farley retired at the end of April as associate executive director and certified business analyst with the Small Business Development Center and the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

Many entrepreneurs have a good idea, but do not know the ins and outs of starting a business, she said. That is where Farley’s assistance was so valuable. She helped thousands of businesses through the years. Over the course of her time with the development center, she helped more than 8,000 businesses in addition to helping to create 9,000 jobs. She started with the development center in 1990.

Farley organized and conducted workshops to teach aspiring entrepreneurs the steps to becoming successful business owners. The workshops provided resources that help small businesses get started and grow.

“There were many ask-the-expert workshops,” she said. “I had lawyers and other experts come talk. There were workshops on how to do business with the federal and state governments, workshops on how to get a SWaM (Small, Woman and Minority) certification.”

She developed a 12-week workshop called Next Level, which focused on how to start a business.

Funding is a big obstacle for many start up businesses. Farley arranged meetings between bankers and entrepreneurs. She provided information on grants and other funding opportunities.

Arranging workshops was not her only duty. Farley gave individualized attention. For example, she had a client who made and sold jewelry.

“It was beautiful work,” she said.

He was having trouble paying for inventory. Farley suggested he take orders for his creations and have the customer pay half so he could purchase the supplies. When the work was complete, the customer paid the balance.

Farley’s immediate plans are to complete some home projects. In the fall, she said she might do some business consulting.

“My career has been very rewarding. I’ve had a passion for my job,” she said.

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