Valdosta’s local businesses thrive with neighborhood and university support

I’m your neighborhood reporter for Valdosta. I joined the WTXL ABC 27 team in 2023.

They’re run by and employ most of our neighbors, but an economic downturn could slow down some of our growth.

“Some of the challenges that we run into are when we don’t get full commitments from families.”

I’m Malia Thomas, your neighborhood reporter in Valdosta, and I’ve been speaking with our local business owners about their needs.

“I was born and raised here in Valdosta at South Georgia Medical Center, and all my family lives in Hahira.”

Erin Haskins’s roots run deep in the Azalea City. She is a Valdosta State graduate who dreamed of giving back as a speech pathologist running her own practice.

“I saw there was a need for it… I moved from a mobile business to a business that was in an All in all intensive clinic.”

She discovered quickly that there was a lot more to running a business than she thought, so she went to the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center at VSU for help.

“I did attend a small business development workshop… they also talked with me about my website, things that interested people… those type of things that keep people engaged.”

“We like to give a very simple equation. You ready for this? Problem+Solution= an opportunity.”

She tells me SBDC gives small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs tools to succeed through educational services.

“‘I don’t know if I can do it with the money from my pocket or if I need a lender?’ So we have those conversations with them to get them either Linda or ready or to teach them some bootstrapping techniques to start their business without going into debt..”

According to the Small Business Administration’s 2022 profile of Georgia, small businesses saw a net decrease of 24,234 jobs, which especially takes hits to the local economy.

Which is why Erin tells me its important for neighbors to not only set up shop locally, but employ locally too.

“Our staff consists of a total mixture of Blazers (nicknames for Valdosta State Alumni).

Despite the recent declines, small business owners like Erin still employ nearly 50% of the state. In Valdosta, I’m Malia Thomas, reporting for ABC27.

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