JSU’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has yet another Star on its staff.
Cassie Chandler, SBDC business advisor, has been awarded the State Star from the Association of Small Business Development Centers for her contributions to serving Alabama’s small business community. She joins Ken Grissom, SBDC director, and Joe Grimes, business advisor, both of whom have been named Alabama State Stars.
“The award is a great honor, but it’s not just about me,” Chandler said. “There is such joy in helping a client make a lifelong dream become a reality.”
Chandler tells of spending months working with Caron Duckworth to create a small business plan to open the restaurant of her dreams, Flora’s Table, in Heflin. At times, the prospect seemed impossible, but the client was eventually able to get the necessary financing, secure a location, and open the restaurant to rave reviews.
“Now, instead of meeting in my office, I am able to meet with her in her restaurant over a delicious lunch,” said Chandler, who recommends the Swiss Apple Sandwich. “To me, the State Star award is a reflection of my clients’ success.”
Such a recognition is important on several levels.
“For JSU, the State Star award is validation of the exemplary performance of the SBDC,” Chandler said. “It shows that the College of Business and Industry is making a direct impact on the community and economy.”
For nearly 40 years, the SBDC's primary mission has been to assist current and prospective small business owners to improve the economic vitality of Alabama by helping generate sales and jobs for Alabama businesses. Small businesses are vital to Alabama’s economy – according to the Small Business Association, 99.4 percent of businesses in Alabama are small businesses.
In fiscal year 2019, the SBDC at JSU assisted clients in obtaining $3 million in capital funding and $9 million in government contracts. This directly contributed to the creation of 25 local businesses, creating 205 jobs. The center hosted 28 training events with a total of 426 attendees this year, Chandler said.
The SBDC at JSU provides services to nine counties: Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, Cleburne, DeKalb, Etowah, Marshall, St. Clair and Talladega. It is also active in the Chambers of Commerce in these counties, providing economic impact and community outreach.
“Our business advisors provide confidential one-on-one counseling with small business owners at no cost,” Chandler said. “We assist clients in a wide variety of areas, including business planning, start-up assistance, financial projections and business management. We also provide workshops on various business topics. We are advocates for JSU in everything we do.”
Originally from Gadsden, Chandler came to JSU as a freshman on scholarship in 2008, receiving her degree in accounting in 2012. After working in both public and private accounting, she returned to JSU in 2014 as a graduate assistant to pursue an MBA. While working on her degree, a business advisor position opened at the SBDC.
“I felt that my accounting background would be perfect for the position, so I applied and fortunately was selected,” said Chandler, who began working as a business advisor in 2016, the same year she completed her MBA
In addition to serving as business advisor, Chandler is an adjunct accounting professor and is pursuing a doctorate in emergency management at JSU. Being a business advisor has given her real-world experience that informs her teaching.
“I’m doing my best to make JSU proud in any capacity that I can... JSU is my past, present and future.”
“I can give my students practical examples of the textbook concepts,” she said. “In addition, I have developed a course called Entrepreneurial Accounting that was offered at JSU in Spring 2019. The course provides basic accounting skills and techniques to manage the accounting aspects of a small business, including bookkeeping, payroll, taxation, financial statement analysis and budgeting. These are areas that I cover regularly with my clients.”
In her business advisor role, Chandler is responsible for giving training workshops and seminars throughout the year. She also has published multiple articles in academic journals and made multiple presentations at academic conferences.
“My JSU teaching experience has greatly improved my presentation skills,” she said. “Through annual regional and national SBDC conferences, I have the opportunity to make presentations about small business accounting and tax matters. My passion for teaching assists me in making impactful presentations to professional business advisors nationwide.”
On Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30, Chandler visited several small businesses in the region – including Flora’s Table – accompanied by Tom Todt, district director of the US Small Business Administration.
She completed the Alabama Society of CPA’s Leadership Academy in 2019 and is currently in the Leadership Calhoun County Class of 2020.
“I’m doing my best to make JSU proud in any capacity that I can,” she said. “JSU is my past, present and future.”
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