History of Small Business Institute®

  • The SBI began in 1972, as a cooperative pilot venture between the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Texas Tech University.  After the pilot year, approximately 20 leading universities and colleges joined in the innovative faculty-guided, student-based field case consulting program 1973, with schools receiving $150 per completed case while providing  management assistance for clients at no charge.  This would eventually be increased to $250 and by 1995.  The last full year of SBA grant funding, participating schools received $400 per completed case from the SBA with colleges and universities providing additional support.
  • In 1974, the fledging SBI program participated in a joint conference/meeting with the Association for Information and Decision Sciences (now the Decision Sciences Institute) in Boston, MA; in 1975, a second joint meeting with the Association for Information and Decision Sciences was held in Cincinnati; and in 1976, the first stand-alone SBI conference was convened in Orlando, FL.  The second stand-alone SBI conference in 1977 was held in San Antonio, TX.
  • The SBI program bridges the gap between the subject competency provided by colleges and universities and the entry-level training that firms critically need. Teams of qualified university students, under expert faculty supervision, provide consulting to small business owners and managers, as part of their educational training at the university. The emphasis is on practical, realistic, and affordable solutions to problems confronting small businesses.
  • More than 500 universities and colleges have participated during the 25 year history of SBI, with approximately 350 schools participating in 1996; 220 in 1997; 230; 1998; 240 in 1999.
  • Approximately 3,600 students participated in the first full year of the SBI Program (1973) with more than 407,625 students benefitting from this learning experience through 1995.
  • Since the program’s inception, the Small Business Institute Directors’ Association (SBIDA) has served as the coordinating body for the SBI program. SBIDA member schools provide small businesses consulting experience for their students and management assistance to small businesses in their community using the SBI model.
  • Some SBI programs work with community organizations to develop economic development strategies to bring businesses to the community as well as to develop businesses that already exist.
  • In 1996, the SBI program became independent of the SBA. The SBI program is now self-funded by participating schools through a variety of sources, including college and university support, nominal client fees, student fees, donations, and state and local grants.
  • 1,440 businesses were assisted in the first full year of the program (1973) with more than 163,050 businesses assisted through 1995


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