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Barbara Necarsulmer exits SBDC after three decades

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SBDC Associate State Director Barbara Necarsulmer will retire at the end of the year following a 30-year career. When she started in 1987, she was one of just three employees. // Photo by Ron Dubick

by Marisa A. Facciolo
Special to Delaware Business Times

When Barbara Necarsulmer accepted a position at the Delaware Small Business Development Center (SBDC) she never thought it would be the start of a 30-year career helping people grow
their businesses.

People like Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head.

Years ago, Necarsulmer developed a new business planning program that the SBDC piloted in Georgetown. One of the students was Calagione, who had plans for a brewpub. The current owner of Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats in Rehoboth was one of the first participants in the program, and Necarsulmer said she is proud of the work they accomplished together.

“My favorite SBDC memory is having Sam Calagione show me the brewing setup at the Dogfish Head brewpub, which really was put together with trash cans and plastic piping. Touring the Milton facility now simply brings tears to my eyes,” she said.

Necarsulmer will retire from the SBDC this month after three decades. She joined the organization in 1987, before the creation of personal computers and many other technological devices that we rely on today. During her tenure, she worked as a business advisor in Kent and Sussex Counties, delivered various training events, served as the center director in Wilmington and as the associate state director with responsibility for the operations of the statewide network. Prior to the SBDC, she started several businesses and worked for Kraft General Foods.

Necarsulmer reflected on how the SBDC has changed over the years. “Nothing is done the same way. Everything has changed. The resources are more sophisticated and you have to keep up with the local trends.” She reflected back to when she started in 1987.  “Few of the businesses had computers and the marketing was the Yellow Pages,” she added. “Businesses still needed to market their products and services, manage their cash flow and raise capital but the ways these things are now done would have seemed like science fiction when I first started.

“Witnessing the growth and development of not only the small businesses, but also the SBDC was the most rewarding part of my career,” she said. At the beginning of Necarsulmer’s tenure at the SBDC she was one of three employees. Today, the organization employs 15 people in various capacities to ensure that the SBDC can meet the growing demands for small businesses.

Over the past three decades it was not easy working through the political changes on both the state and federal levels. Necarsulmer acknowledged that weathering the changing political climate has been hard. “I learned to keep track of our success stories so that I would be ready to prove our success and the value we delivered regardless of who was in office,” she said. Ultimately, she succeeded and continued to deliver expert oversight and guidance as a business advisor.

Hosted by the University of Delaware’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP), the Delaware SBDC is OEIP’s business advisory service. Operating since 1984, the SBDC is dedicated to helping new businesses grow and prosper within Delaware and the region by providing no-cost or low-cost advisory training services. By capitalizing on their position within OEIP, as well as their network of other public and private partners, the SBDC’s expert services are focused on, but not limited to identifying/accessing capital, targeting/developing markets, business continuation, and accessing/improving strategic and operational performance.

The SBDC also has its own Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) to help existing businesses break into and make sense of government procurement by identifying and preparing bids on contracts with all levels of government, as well as prime contractors. In particular, PTAC’s expertise lies in subcontracting opportunities and information, researching buying habits of specific agencies, interpreting government regulations, and electronic bid matching.

J. Michael (Mike) Bowman, state director of the SBDC, said he appreciated having someone guide him as he transitioned into the leadership role from his 24-year predecessor, Clinton Tymes. “It was helpful having someone to steer me as I adjusted into the role, she really made it seamless,” said Bowman. Likewise, Necarsulmer complements her former boss, Clinton Tymes.

“I am incredibly blessed to have had an extraordinary partnership with Clinton,” said Necarsulmer. “We complemented and supported each other’s strengths and simply got done what was needed. We built the organization together literally from the ground up, I always felt needed and challenged.”

Tymes remarked on Necarsulmer’s accomplishments. “She had a tremendous tenacity to fight off the dragons, while never losing focus of her primary purpose to mentor and train the business advisors,” he said.

In addition to the requirement of having a master’s or equivalent degree, the business advisors must also have owned and operated a business. “It is the real-world experience and academic credentials of the business advisors that make the Delaware SBDC a success,” he said. After all it was Necarsulmer’s MBA education that prompted her response to the employment advertisement 30 years ago. “My husband and I had the opportunity to move to Dover, Del., from the San Francisco area and the SBDC was looking for someone with an MBA. I thought sure, why not?”

While managing a growing list of responsibilities Necarsulmer also served as a board member for America’s SBDC which is the national organization that oversees the state level SBDCs. 

“She was a key person on the national accreditation committee and participated in dozens of the evaluations which were extremely time consuming,” said Bowman.

Tymes reflected on the impact Necarsulmer had on his career when he delivered remarks at her recent retirement party. “I owe my career success to Barbara. Because of her dedication and commitment to the SBDC I was able to focus on strategic alliances, special projects and running interference. We made a
good team.”

Necarsulmer is not sure what her future holds. “My goal was never to stay with the SBDC until retirement, but rather I wanted to stay as long as the work was challenging and fulfilling. Somehow in the last few years I knew I was ready and 30 seemed like a nice round number. It is time for
me to hand over the reins,” she said.

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