Small Business Development Center aids local business

St Augustine residents Don and Susan Locklin shared a goal to build on their local mobile vending business; and, one day, to open a brick and mortar restaurant — with assistance from the University of North Florida’s Small Business Development Center, they achieved that goal last month.

The Staples shopping center south of SR-312, located at 1968 US-1 South, is now home to “The Maui Grill” — thanks, in no small part, to guidance from Marge Cirillo, who provided the Locklins with confidential counseling and training at the Center’s St Johns County offices.

Through a partnership where St Johns County contributed unused office space in the Growth Management Permit Center, and some other financial support, the Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida agreed to provide a full-time Certified Business Analyst to establish a branch of the Jacksonville-based organization here in St Johns County.

One of the biggest attractions of the Center has been that management advice and technical training are available at little to no-cost to the potential, fledgling or well-established small business owners.

“Economic development is driven by the small businesses that are born in the imaginations of entrepreneurs,” Historic City News editor Michael Gold said. “The cost of professional business consulting is high enough to dissuade many, if not most, first-time business owners from obtaining the guidance and preparation they need to turn their dreams into realities.”

The good news is that a Certified Business Analyst like Cirillo, and others working with the University of North Florida through the Small Business Development Center, makes it possible for entrepreneurs to better prepare themselves for their venture while hanging on to their cash for other, unavoidable startup expenses.

At a meeting of the North Florida Vendors Association on Tuesday, February 21, at 7:00 p.m., the Locklins get a chance to show off “The Maui Grill” when the meeting convenes at their new restaurant. Don and Susan Locklin are eager to show the other association members what they have learned and to thank the teacher for giving them what they needed to move “Maui Dogz”, their mobile vending business, forward to the next level.

A quick look at Cirillo’s resume gives you an idea of the caliber of business analyst she might be. Her entrepreneurial experience includes owning and operating three highly successful restaurants and a catering service for eight years. She employed a staff of 150 workers and personally managed all aspects of the business.

She was also a licensed real estate broker for nine years. Cirillo handled both residential and commercial properties.

After selling the restaurants Cirillo went to work for the US Small Business Administration Disaster Team as a loan specialist for seven years. She traveled extensively around the United States packaging and underwriting loans to assist both viable and troubled businesses.

Cirillo also worked for certified development companies marketing the SBA 504 loan program, both in South Carolina and in Jacksonville. Most recently, Cirillo was an Assistant Vice President at a community bank specializing in SBA lending. She grew the existing Small Business Administration department from 11th place to 4th place for North Florida SBA lenders in less than two years.

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