SOMERSET, Ky. -- A Pulaski County woman is Kentucky's 2020 Small Business Advocate.
Amanda Kelly, Small Business Training Director for the Southeast Kentucky Economic Development Corporation (SKED), is among seven men and women honored by the Kentucky District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for their work in the small business community this year. Kelly's selection recognizes her work as the director of SKED's Entrepreneurial SMARTS training program and creator of the digital marketing course Be Boss Online.
"I am truly thankful to be named Kentucky's Small Business Advocate of the Year," Kelly said. "However, I cannot take all the credit. What we do at SKED is a team effort. Kyle Smith (SKED small business training specialist) and I have spent countless hours creating and improving Entrepreneurial SMARTS and Be Boss Online; without his assistance and contributions, we wouldn't be where we are today."
Other SBA 2020 Kentucky Award winners include: SBA 2020 Kentucky Small Business Person of the Year: Mavis Linnemann Clark, The Delish Dish in Covington, Ky.; SBA 2020 Kentucky Minority-Owned Small Business of the Year: Steven Dunn, Dunn Electric, LLC in Louisville; SBA 2020 Kentucky Rural Owned Small Business of the Year (tie): Josh Howard, Howard Law Firm, PLC in Pineville, Ky.; SBA 2020 Kentucky Rural Owned Small Business of the Year (tie): Steve Whitaker, Whitaker Pharmacy, Inc. in Mount Sterling, Ky.; SBA 2020 Kentucky Woman Owned Small Business of the Year: Christy Clark, Mammy's Kitchen & Bar, LLC in Bardstown, Ky. and SBA 2020 Kentucky Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Rodricka O'Bannon, C&R Beauty Bar in Louisville, Ky.
SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza stated, "It's an honor to recognize the National Small Business Week state and territorial winners from across the nation, whose exceptional hard work has created and built successful small businesses. These women and men not only realized their dreams of entrepreneurship but are also tremendous job creators. They represent 30 million small businesses - our nation's innovators and risk-takers."
SKED is a 34-year-old nonprofit, economic development organization and Community Development Financial Institution based in Somerset. In addition to teaching courses for both of these distinctive entrepreneurial programs, Kelly works to provide free technical assistance to small business owners across SKED's 45-county service region.
"Technical Assistance comes in all shapes and sizes; every business needs and deserves help tailored to them," Kelly stated. "Because SKED works as a team to deploy its small business loans and training, I am introduced to entrepreneurs across our 45-county service territory. I am blessed to be SKED's Small Business Training Director, and I get to work every day with some of the finest people I have ever met."
Kelly joined SKED in 2015, following a successful career in the private sector. Since then, she has worked with hundreds of small business owners through the Entrepreneurial SMARTS training program.
"It wasn't intentional," Kelly said of her decision to train other business leaders. "I had the opportunity to take a class SKED offered and I was so impressed with the program that when the training director position came open I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of."
Almost immediately, she saw the need to develop a technical assistance solution to teach business owners how to utilize digital marketing and social media to grow their businesses. So, she developed Be Boss Online, a 12-hour course covering the following for small businesses: social media presence, website development, online analytics, search engine optimization, email marketing and related topics.
In 2018, she delivered more than 1,000 hours of technical assistance to 76 businesses in the SKED service area. Last year, she not only equaled that impressive pace but also converted Be Boss Online to videos delivered through a mobile app to increase accessibility.
In addition to her full-time work at SKED, she is an active member of the East Kentucky Technical Assistance Providers Network. Fulfilling another small business need, Kelly also created the SBS Networking Group, which includes business owners and professionals in the Somerset area who meet to discuss challenges, solve problems and provide support.
"I get to help people reach their dreams every day," Kelly said of her work. "What could be better than that?"
Outside of work, the mother of two volunteers for the Youth Entrepreneur Academy program and coaches her children in various sports activities.
After being postponed in May due to COVID-19, SBA National Small Business Week will be celebrated September 22-24. Kelly spoke about how the pandemic has impacted local businesses.
"A number of the businesses I work with were forced to close for a period of time," she said. "In March things started happening so quickly [that] most businesses were not prepared. That being said, I have been amazed at the ingenuity of the small business owners in eastern Kentucky. Almost all businesses found a way to pivot and continue to meet the needs of their customers. I truly believe there is nothing our small business owners can't overcome."
SKED continues to help but is offering virtual programming whenever possible.
"We have done countless Zoom meetings on topics such as PPP Loans, cyber security, digital marketing and financial planning for the businesses," Kelly continued. "Technology has allowed us to reach even more small businesses now than we did prior to COVID-19. Every Thursday at 10 a.m. we host Coffee Talk live on Facebook.…Topics we have covered include, how to update your Google Business Listing, interviews with business owners, question and answer sessions, email marketing, tools tips and tricks to make marketing easier, and how to find new customers, just to name a few. We plan to continue hosting these Facebook Live events even after COVID-19 because our clients find them helpful. While I do miss getting to go see my clients, I am grateful that we have the tools and resources to be able to continue to assist these businesses when they need it the most."
To learn more about how SKED helps small business owners overcome obstacles and learn to do business better, visit: www.skedcorp.com.