Kathleen Cronin serves as the Head of Outreach at the New Jersey Small Business Development Center in Bergen County, where she has worked to provide small business owners with no-cost business management counseling and information services. Bergen County is approximately 14 miles outside of Manhattan and touts a population of nearly one million residents. As the Head of Outreach at the center in Bergen County, Kathleen has been on the front lines in the fight to save the small business community in the NY-NJ region during the COVID-19 era.
She has played a key role in governing the operations of the center. She helped launch the center’s Economic Recovery Task Force Initiative, which led to the creation of 8 Economic Recovery Task Forces to aid small businesses during the NY-NJ region’s economic recovery period. These economic recovery teams are composed of Ramapo College’s top academic performers, presidential scholarship recipients, members of the dean’s list, and various other students from extremely varied academic backgrounds. Each task force is led by a professional SBDC Business Management Consultant, who takes the lead on client interfacing activities. Each task force, which specializes in matters ranging from accounting to life sciences to financial services, is equipped to help business owners in every sector of the economy throughout the NY-NJ region come back from the COVID-19 crisis. To date, the task forces have provided thousands of hours of service to small businesses in helping them navigate the economic downturn.
Q: What were the main challenges you faced?
The main challenges that I faced along my journey involved understanding the ins and outs of many different industries. Part of my role at the New Jersey Small Business Development Center is to be a resource for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start new enterprises or grow their existing companies. To effectively help various different kinds of small businesses, it is important to have one’s finger on the pulse of many industries and be aware of different trends across a wide-variety of sectors of the economy.
Q: If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
If I had to start over, I would start my journey in the business world sooner. I spent large amounts of my professional career not as a businesswoman but as a Montessori Pre-K/Elementary educator as well as an ESL English Second Language college-level instructor. The opportunities for women in business are numerous, especially today. I have helped start many women owned businesses and watched them thrive.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
My goals for the future are associated with helping with the economic recovery of the NJ-NY region. Countless small businesses are in need of the services of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center at Ramapo College. As the person who heads up different outreach efforts at the center, it is my duty to make sure that the services of the SBDC reach those who are in need during this difficult time.
Q: Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
Madeleine Albright, the first female U.S. Secretary of State, has been a particular source of inspiration for me. She sent a message that women should think globally. In my current role, I represent the SBDC at Ramapo College in dealings with various different international consulates. I am also involved with the United Nations Association. I am always thinking globally and doing so has helped me provide value to the small business community.
Q: What are your favorite books?
One of my favorite books is Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The reason I like the book so much is because it reminds me of the trials and tribulations of business ownership. When one removes the out-there details about the book, what is it really about? It’s a story about a girl pursuing an objective and overcoming challenges in her pursuit of that goal. Whether it’s Alice overcoming the Red Queen to get to the White Rabbit or a businesswoman overcoming a tight deadline to get her products to a customer, the message of the story is the same: you are going to have challenges in your life, don’t let them get in the way of pursuing your goals.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
The first step to succeed is a willingness to put in the long hours. I have encountered countless aspiring entrepreneurs, both female and male, who want to succeed in business. However there are many would-be business owners that just want the success and do not want to put in the hard work associated with earning that success. Success requires sacrifice. Success requires sleepless nights. Success requires time. My advice for female founders who are just starting out is to understand that if you want to succeed it is going to take hard work.