Small Business Development Center Positions Mason Student for Success

Posted: August 17, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Chakib Jaber
Chakib Jaber

For the past few years, Chakib Jaber has been an entrepreneur by day and a student by night. As vice president of a small software consulting organization and a student in the MBA Program in the School of Management, Jaber utilized the facilities, courses, and professor expertise at Mason to get his education. However, he also has utilized another important resource on campus that has already helped immensely—the Arlington Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

A few months ago, the Arlington SBDC helped Jaber’s business, Spin Systems Inc., obtain an 8A certification, which helps small disadvantaged businesses develop into strong, competitive enterprises. The certification allows the company to compete with larger companies and get a better chance at securing business.

Spin Systems Inc., founded in 1998, is a small company of 18 employees that provides technical and business solutions to a wide range of public and private sector entities. This year Spin Systems has played a major role in supporting the U.S. Air Force Office of the Surgeon General through development and deployment of an enterprise-level solution for electronic medical records management, supporting the collection, aggregation, and analysis of medical and health data. With the help of the Arlington SBDC, the company has also been pursuing connections with organizations and agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“We are very proud of Chakib’s achievements at Spin Systems. Like many of our MBA students, he is balancing graduate studies with a challenging executive position and doing exceptional work on both fronts,” says Phil Buchanan, director of George Mason’s MBA program.

Spin Systems is just one of the many success stories that Arlington SBDC Director Nalin Jain can speak of, but it is a unique one. “It is an unusual occurrence for a student to have a company and get an 8A certification,” says Jain. “It’s a difficult application process, and it is really exciting to have a George Mason student complete such an accomplishment. We hope other entrepreneurial students will come to us for help and counseling.”

Jain has worked at the center since 1988, when it was established at the Arlington Campus as part of the Mason Enterprise Center. In 2003, George Mason received $1.9 million in funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration to host the network of 29 Virginia Small Business Development Centers.

Because of its location in the metropolitan Washington, D.C., region, the Arlington branch of the Virginia SBDC has many minority entrepreneurs as clients. The SBDC has partnered with the Business Development Assistance Group to offer training in a number of different languages, including Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, and Hindi. Clients who do business overseas also utilize the Arlington SBDC’s International Trade Center, which provides comprehensive international trade assistance in areas such as export trade, market research, and tax and legal considerations. All counseling is free.

Throughout the years, Jain has seen hundreds of entrepreneurs open successful businesses, from ethnic restaurants to software companies. The traffic keeps him busy, as he and Paul Hall of the Mason Enterprise Center are the only two full-time staff members running the SBDC. Jain estimates the center sees 250 different clients each year.

“Each company that comes to us has a unique problem,” says Roger Stough, director of the Mason Enterprise Center. “We offer a wide variety of services. Some of the businesses that come to see us are more established, others are starting from the ground up.”

One of the center’s clients has been successful running a shoe store in Arlington and is looking to open another store. Another client operated a business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) selling soap and aromatherapy products to hotel chains. The Arlington SBDC helped the owners learn how to read and draft contracts that would be valid in both the United States and the UAE. They also advised them on shipments, packaging, and legal issues with exporting. The client sold nearly $1 million worth of products before selling the company.

Clients such as Jaber appreciate the time and effort the SBDC staff puts into their jobs. “Nalin Jain and Paul Hall have provided a lot of guidance and insight that has helped us focus the company’s direction. They have been able to get us in touch with the right people to better understand the steps needed to pursue our objectives. We truly thank them for the hard work, effort, and support they provide to companies like ours,” says Jaber.

And now that Spin Systems has their 8A certification, they are finalizing their business plan with the U.S. Small Business Administration. As for the MBA that Jaber earned in June from George Mason—that’s the icing on the cake.

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