Sewell has been with the SBDC as deputy director for 13 years. She replaces James Hogge, who is retiring after 19 years at the SBDC. Hogge will stay with SBDC until Jan. 15.
Sewell joined the SBDC after working as a manager at the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. She has a Master of Business Administration degree from Boise State University.
The Idaho SBDC is made up of six offices around the state at colleges and universities in Boise, Post Falls, Lewiston, Twin Falls, Pocatello and Idaho Falls. In her new role, Sewell will be in charge of all six offices.
SBDC’s mission is to help small businesses start and succeed. SBDC offers counseling, training and workshops for would-be business owners and for people who already have a small business under way.
At the Boise State campus, teams of business students often share their expertise with SBDC clients to help develop marketing plans or business plans, Sewell said.
“The (student) team gets to work with a real business rather than just with a paper case, and our clients get some great help,” Sewell said.
Sewell has a strong interest in sustainable business. She’s chairwoman of the board of Dunia Marketplace, a nonprofit, fair trade store in Boise’s Hyde Park neighborhood.
Most of the businesses SBDC serves – around 60 percent – are established businesses, Sewell said. SBDC serves about 1,600 clients each year. Sewell said small business owners who seek help at SBDC tend to outperform their peers who didn’t seek help.
“This is because they are building their skills through coaching,” she said. She added that business owners sometimes wait until it’s too late to get help.
“We encourage businesses to take advantage of our services before they have problems,” she said.
Sewell said the SBDC will seek to emphasize exporting and technology-based businesses in the coming year.
“We feel there’s a gap in services for those technology-based businesses,” she said. SBDC is a partner in the Technology and Entrepreneurial Center, or TECenter, at Boise State’s West Campus in Nampa, which aims to help technology companies grow and succeed.
“We’re working with all those partners to understand the role we play and how we can help out,” Sewell said. “The unique thing we have that other organizations don’t have is a statewide presence. It doesn’t matter where a client is geographically located; they can still tap into the expertise we have anywhere in the state.”