Small Business Development Center at UW-River Falls lends helping hand during COVID-19 crisis

May 14, 2020 - With a motto of helping businesses in any industry "Start/Manage/Grow /Transition," the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the University of Wisconsin- River Falls has stepped up to lend a helping hand to businesses in Polk, Pierce and St. Croix counties during the COVID-19 crisis.

The center, which provides no cost professional business advising and targeted business programming, has seen an unprecedented number of requests for consultations and has assisted 345 clients in less than two months – 135 more clients than all of 2019.

According to Assistant Director Katherine Fossler, the incredible outreach effort was made possible by swiftly forming an interdepartmental university team to help deal with the high volume of requests from business owners caught up in a flurry of conflicting information and declining revenue. The team made up of non-SBDC university staff from different areas across campus brought valuable skills and a commitment to help during this difficult time. Team members include Karen Schaffhausen, Carolyn Brady, Stephanie Trinidad, Julie Stucky, and Rachel Nelson.

Fossler calls her team “the boots on the ground” providing accurate information, a listening ear and discussing survival options with business owners during this unprecedented economic disruption.

Questions asked by Fossler and her team included: How can we solve problems that are happening now? Is there a way to turn your inventory into cash? Can we assist in providing a short-term cash-flow analysis? Can we help you think about meeting your customer needs in a different way? 

The Wisconsin SBDC network is made up of 11 University of Wisconsin campuses hosting a Small Business Development Center. The SBDC at UW-River Falls is currently ranked second in clients served and contact hours, only behind UW-Green Bay.

The SBDC at UW-River Falls, in addition to meeting with clients one-on-one, also engages in a variety of speaking events, often through Chambers of Commerce, Rotary and networking groups. These speaking events help raise awareness of current programs and resources available to business owners. The Baldwin-Woodville Area Chamber of Commerce expressed gratitude this week for the outreach and services provided. The chamber director told her clients that she "truly felt like a gift was handed to us" when she was connected with the SBDC by a retired business executive.

For more information about engaging with the SBDC at UW-River Falls, visit or email Associate Director Katherine Fossler at

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