UTRGV offers services for aspiring business owners

  Sunday, December 30, 2018

By Maria Elena Hernandez

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RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Losing weight and spending less money aren’t the only popular New Year resolutions. Starting a new business tops the list for many people.

The Small Business Administration estimates about 627,000 new businesses open every year.

It might be a hobby to earn extra income, or a long-standing idea you finally want to act on. Whatever the motivation, there are resources available for people interested in launching a business in 2019.

UTRGV Small Business Development Center

One of the organizations aspiring business owners can turn to is the Small Business Development Center housed at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

Maria Juarez, executive director of business development at the center, said she has seen the number of visitors rise at the start of the year.

“We do tend to see an increase around mid- to late January, and then it just holds up the entire spring,” she said.

“Individuals who are interested in either growing or starting their business can meet with an advisor and discuss what their needs are."

The meetings are confidential and free, and SBDC also offers workshops throughout the year, including one available in English and Spanish called SBDC Smart Start.

The executive director encourages prospective business owners to try their services, even if all they have is an idea.

“We have the advising, we have the training, and then in addition, we have the research,” Juarez said.

UTRGV Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center

The UTRGV Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center is another resource for people interested in starting their own business.

The center helps prospective business owners prepare for the questions they’ll face, like: “Who is my market? How many people are in my market? Where should I sell? What is a supply chain?”

Samuel Vallejo Hernandez, program coordinator of the UTRGV center, said those are just some of the questions that will need to be answered.

Like Juarez, Vallejo Hernandez said people only need an idea for a new business to start using services at the Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center.

“Just come to the center,” he said. “We’ll see your idea, and we’ll run it to see if it’s a viable idea.”

Unlike most the Small Business Development Center services, the UTRGV Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center costs a monthly membership fee. Membership amenities include an open working space, semi-private offices, printers, Internet access, a conference room and a business mailbox address.

Another option available through the center is the Kauffman FastTrac.

“The Kauffman FastTrac is a workshop/seminar that takes from eight to 10 weeks,” Vallejo Hernandez said.

It helps entrepreneurs gain business skills and outline critical steps to launch a business. The program has been offered in different cities throughout the Rio Grande Valley.


Juarez said they try to make their services easily accessible to a range of people.

“Our advisors can go meet with someone, because it is very difficult sometimes for a small business owner to leave their place of business for a couple of hours.”

The SBDC executive director said they have multiple locations across the Valley.

While the UTRGV Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center is in Brownsville, the university recently opened the UTRGV Center of Innovation and Commercialization in Weslaco, which aims to help entrepreneurs and startup companies.

The state-of-the-art facility will offer mentoring services and offices.

Starting with just an idea

Representatives from both the SBDC and Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center said it just takes an idea to move forward with your business goals.

“Of course, you’re going to need money in a certain time for your business timeline,” Vallejo Hernandez said. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t start on the intellectual aspect of it.”

He said people can work on identifying key partners, suppliers and the permits needed.

“I would just really encourage the whole community to reach out to the Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Center, as well as to all the other organizations here for you,” he said. “We’re here for you. Your success is our success.”

Marie Chang, owner of the BARA Exotic Food restaurant, discusses ways to improve her business with the UTRGV Entrepreneurship & Commercialization Center staff. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)
Marie Chang, owner of the BARA Exotic Food restaurant, discusses ways to improve her business with the UTRGV Entrepreneurship & Commercialization Center staff. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.