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SBDC Chronicles: A new face for the Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center
SBDC Chronicles

SBDC Chronicles: A new face for the Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center

  • Updated
Cathy Balach

Cathy Balach is the new director of the Napa Sonoma Small Business Development Center. 

The Napa-Sonoma Small Business Development Center welcomes new leadership from Cathy Balach, incoming director. She is taking over from Mary Cervantes, who retired in June, having served as director since 2014.

As we celebrate this transition, here is a look back at the landmark successes of the Napa-Sonoma SBDC in our community.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Support to small businesses to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic included:

-- Providing expertise to help businesses navigate COVID funding programs and changes relevant to the Napa-Sonoma small business community.

-- Developing workshops relevant to businesses impacted by pandemic restrictions to help them maintain their local customer base.

-- Launching a regular webcast on Facebook Live providing up-to-date information on COVID funding and programs.

-- Implementing a workshop series to help small businesses improve their online marketing.

Expansion of services in Spanish

The SBDC hired two Spanish-speaking advisors to provide one-on-one advising to small businesses in Spanish. Over the past years, the center has provided more than 2,300 hours of advising in Spanish to more than 300 clients. 

In addition, the SBDC provided 148 workshops in Spanish, trained 1,535 Spanish speaking entrepreneurs and added a nine-week entrepreneurship training course in Spanish: NxLeveL for micro-entrepreneurs.

They also provided outreach to organizations serving the Latino community, including La Luz and the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce serving Napa and Sonoma, as well as participation in  community events for local Latin businesses.

Support throughout regional disasters

The SBDC worked with the SBA Disaster Center to establish an office to serve Sonoma County businesses impacted by 2017 fires and administered a $25,000 grant from Wells Fargo to help Napa-Sonoma businesses with advising and training to help them recover from disaster impacts.

They set up an SBDC presence at a local disaster assistance center to help local businesses with financial resources and services after the Napa 2014 earthquake; and partnered with Working Solutions to implement and manage a local grant program established by the Napa Valley Community Foundation. They also assisted west Sonoma County businesses impacted by flood disaster.

 “I am so grateful for the opportunity to work with dedicated professionals who care so deeply for our business community," Mary Cervantes said. "As a team, we have created economic impact in our local community pre-pandemic, during pandemic and going forward, and we strive every day to support entrepreneurs and small business owners realize their dream.”

Cathy Balach added, " I invite the business community to explore how the Napa-Sonoma SBDC can help your business start, survive, and flourish.”

Visit the Napa-Sonoma SBDC online at for more information. 

Quarantine was hard, but it did force some good changes. Here are things that changed and shouldn’t come back. Small Talk Pressure Social Distancing rules and the requirement to wear face masks meant everyone had a perfectly good excuse to avoid small talk. Instead of having to stop and chat with a neighbor, a simple wave or nod was sufficient for both of you. Middle Seating There is no bigger pain in travel than finding yourself in the middle seat between two strangers with no room to move. One positive of the pandemic was airlines being forced to block them, but unfortunately, this one will likely return. Carrying Cash Because stores and restaurants were forced to accept alternative forms of payment, cash is no longer necessary. It will likely continue to have its role in society, but fortunately, the need to always carry cash on you 24/7 is gone.

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