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A smiling Joel Sedeño poses in front of the SBDC office, representing small business support.

Joel Sedeño Empowers San Diego Small Businesses

Small Business Advice
Small Business Loans
Success Story
February 26, 2024

Imagine the frustration: you have a brilliant business idea, the drive to succeed, but the financial side of things looms like an impenetrable fortress. Loan applications, confusing statements, and the ever-present worry about funding gaps threaten to turn your dream into a distant echo.

But what if you could get free and expert guidance, a trusted navigator in your corner, someone who could demystify the financial labyrinth and be a guide towards sustainable growth?

Nestled within the Center for Business Advancement at Southwestern Community College, in the heart of San Diego and Imperial Counties, Joel Sedeño combines his extensive knowledge of finance with a dedication for nurturing entrepreneurial dreams. He feels blessed to be one of many great advocates for small businesses at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “We are the best kept secret when it comes to small business. There is a ridiculous amount of talent in this office…The knowledge that is in this building is out of this world.”

Joel, a Mexican immigrant, arrived in Southern California as a teenager with a passion for business. He earned degrees in finance, worked in brokerage and banking, and gained expertise at Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. He shaped his knowledge into a unique asset for helping businesses secure funding for growth. What he didn’t see at the larger institutions was an outlet where he could focus his passion for helping individual small businesses

Four years ago, he connected with the SBDC directors at an event where he gave a presentation, and it sparked a desire to infuse meaning into his career and utilize his financial knowledge to help small businesses. Additionally, the SBDC had a limited number of financial advisors in the network and were especially lacking representation from the Latin community. It was a good match. As he reflects on his journey, it’s evident that Joel’s encounter with the SBDC directors marked a pivotal moment in his career, guiding him towards a path of impactful service and community engagement.

A confident Joel Sedeño is in his office giving advice to Edi Carlos Gonzales, CEO of CGN Noticias, a Hispanic news agency.
Joel Sedeño discusses business finance with Edi Carlos Gonzales, CEO of CGN Noticias. Mr. Gonzalez utilized the SBDC’s small business advice as well as a Community Advantage Loan from CDC Small Business Finance to start his Spanish-language news service.

Empowering Through Knowledge

As a business advisor with the SDBC, Joel provides comprehensive services, specializing in:

He is also aware of the myriad of financial challenges for small businesses, particularly in Southern California. The high cost of living, the higher interest rates on loans, and the exorbitant total payment required for startups are a significant barrier for small businesses in underrepresented communities.

However, Joel is encouraged that some credit score issues have become less of a challenge, as some lenders like CDC Small Business Finance now take a more comprehensive look at applicants’ full financial picture, rather than credit scores alone.

Joel Sedeño teams up with CDC Loan Officer Miriam Torres Baltys, powerful allies to small businesses.
What a team! Joel Sedeño and CDC Small Business Finance’s Miriam Torres Baltys educate small businesses about financial options in both English and Spanish.

The SBDC-CDC Small Business Finance Collaboration

Joel goes beyond simply crunching numbers and offering generic advice. He takes an immersive approach, helping small businesses to gain a solid understanding of financial intricacies.

No matter what stage a budding business may be in, Joel’s specialization in finance, access to capital, and business expansion positions him as the go-to guide. “Finance has a unique language,” he says. “I help with that. I give [clients] the whole picture of what it means to run and build a business.”

Joel’s commitment to demystifying SBA loan programs showcases his dedication to making financial resources accessible. SBA loans support small businesses by offering various loan programs with favorable terms and conditions that may not be available through traditional lending channels.

When Joel started at the SBDC, his office didn’t have anyone whose focus was finance. So, he created workshops and presentations that highlighted the importance of securing small business financing. Word got out about the good work he was doing, and his director wanted to further enhance their emphasis on finance. So, she facilitated a meeting with Susan Lamping, Vice President of Sales, Smart Growth at CDC Small Business finance. Joel says he visited the CDC offices and “a natural connection began to happen.”

This collaboration with CDC Small Business Finance adds an extra layer of potency to Joel’s efforts. He is particularly excited about the work he does with Miriam Torres-Baltys, a loan officer at CDC, whose commitment to borrowers well-being and passion for uplifting underrepresented communities harmonizes well with the work he does each day.

Workshops and presentations are dynamic tools in the duo’s arsenal. Educating small businesses about financial options in both English and Spanish, Joel and Miriam’s collaborative efforts extend beyond language and overcome the cultural barriers that often prohibit Latino-owned businesses from accessing capital to grow.

“Joel takes the time to understand what CDC Small Business Finance and myself as a Loan Officer are looking for to approve a client. He helps prepare full loan applications and refers clients that are well-informed and prepared for prequalification. Joel is an advocate for his clients and he is a pleasure to work with. He is the best!” says Miriam.

In bridging the racial wealth gap and addressing the needs of underestimated communities, Joel feels it’s important to create a personal connection and to earn cultural trust. He believes it is important to break down barriers and establish a foundation for growth within these communities.

He says, “Folks are intimidated and don’t trust those that don’t look like them.” The cultural trust that he builds with his Latin clients is reinforced when Miriam is involved. “She brings knowledge and allows clients to see what success can be.”

One area of small business that seems particularly challenging for entrepreneurs from underestimated populations is understanding their financials. Joel and the SBDC have developed programs to help these businesses understand their financials, utilize accounting software, and file taxes. “The aim,” he says, “is to equip these businesses with the necessary knowledge to manage their finances effectively as they grow.”

Joel Sedeno and Miriam Torres Baltys share a joyful moment in the SBDC lobby, engaged in conversation and laughter.
Collaboration in Action: Joel Sedeno and Miriam Torres Baltys of SBDC and CDC Small Business Finance, empowering entrepreneurs together.

Connecting Clients, Startups, and SBA Loans

“Clients need to connect with their stakeholders such as CDC Small Business Finance. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is.” Joel says. Everyday, he assists startups and existing businesses in reviewing their financials and connecting them with lenders, and he underscores the importance of making the borrowing process less intimidating.

The first step towards this is often educating entrepreneurs about SBA loan programs, explaining their benefits, and how they expand access to capital. The importance of understanding eligibility and the approval process is a key part of getting these small businesses on the road to success.

Joel sees himself and the SBDC as an additional arm for small businesses, acting in the best interest of the community. Together, they spearhead initiatives that empower businesses with the knowledge they need to bridge the gap for sustainable growth.

Aside from all his individual success, Joel highlights the wealth of experience within the entire San Diego and Imperial SBDC network. Many of his colleagues have worked for decades in various industries and achieved great success themselves. He truly believes his office is the “best-kept secret in the business world.”

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