South DeKalb Business Association ‘alive and well,’ says interim president

The South DeKalb Business Association’s (SDBA) long and storied history continues, according to the organization’s interim President LoyLene Shaw, who said, “We want people to know that South DeKalb Business Association is alive and well.”

Like many organizations, SDBA was disrupted by COVID-19, before which it had regular monthly meetings most of which featured speakers with advice on such topics as tapping into new sources for capital, working with government agencies, and effective marketing.

SDBA began in the mid-1970s as The South DeKalb Mall Merchant Association and in the 1980s became the Candler Area Business Association, later broadening its reach “to cover the growing south DeKalb business area” and changed its name to the South DeKalb Business Association. “We are continuing to expand our footprint,” said Shaw, who noted that the organization recently sponsored a voter registration drive at a Stonecrest restaurant and works with many Decatur businesses as well.

Events such as the voter registration drive spring from SDBA’s interest in strengthening the communities in south DeKalb County in many ways, Shaw said, explaining that a community’s business success is tied to its overall health.

The organization’s mission continues to be “promoting commercial prosperity and enhancing the quality of life within the South DeKalb community and encouraging and supporting economic development in the South DeKalb community. SDBA acts as a united advocate for positive change and development and provides a forum for addressing business and community issues,” Shaw said.

“We’ve been too important to this community for too long not to continue. Our legacy is long and strong,” said Shaw, who noted that SDBA was a catalyst for the creation of the South DeKalb Business Incubator, which assisted numerous small businesses over the course of a decade, and Youth VIBE, an organization for youth entrepreneurship training, was also created under SDBA.

Shaw said that while many members became inactive during the worldwide pandemic, a core of seven SDBA officers and board members have been planning and strategizing for the organization. “We will restart our schedule of regular meetings, elect officers, and host special events later this year,” she said, adding that a mixer is being planned for later in the spring to give old and new members as well as other members of the business community an opportunity to meet and network.

SDBA also is in search of new board members, according to Shaw. “Ideally, we want a mix of young business owners and established business owners who are enthusiastic about our mission. The most important skill we’re looking for is leadership. Strong leadership skills aren’t just present in older people; many young people have them and we need them as we continue to build this organization,” she said.

“Many young entrepreneurs have expressed an interest in SDBA. We feel they can do a lot for us, and we can do a lot for them. Many of them have wonderful business ideas, but they need guidance in such areas as marketing, financing, and legal advice. They need to know about the many resources available to them and how to access those resources. We hope to connect with new businesses early in their development so they can avoid mistakes that might cost them time and money. We can direct them to those who can put them on the right path,” Shaw said.

Shaw said SDBA is working with young would-be entrepreneurs while they’re still in high school. “We’re already working with Lithonia High School, and we will soon make this initiative available in other schools that have young entrepreneur programs. We work with what they already have in place and ask how we can help them be more successful.”

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