Kelly Bearden

About the organization: The Small Business Development Center at CSUB is one of five service centers within the University of California, Merced SBDC Regional Network, which is a partnership between the university and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

What I do: I lead the activities of center staff and professional consultants, who assist entrepreneurs and small-business owners in Kern, Inyo and Mono counties by providing free one-on-one consulting, small-business training and research.

Where I grew up: I am a lifelong resident of the San Joaquin Valley and was born in Modesto.

How I landed in Kern County:

After reading the Kern County Economic Development Corporation strategy update, I learned about the SBDC opportunity with CSUB. As a result of the community’s economic commitment, I knew I wanted to help develop the opportunities and environment for entrepreneurs to succeed.

Education: Bachelor of Science in finance from California State University, Chico.

Family: My mother and her family migrated to California from Oklahoma and my father migrated from Idaho during the Great Depression. I am fortunate to be part of a large extended family that still lives in the valley.

Hobbies: I love the mountains and being outside on the weekends with family. I enjoy sports and golf, even though I seldom play.

What was your very first job and what did you learn from it?

It was actually a self-employment venture when I was 11. I sold excess, unharvested watermelon from my family’s farm. It was a great lesson in entrepreneurship, creating value from something that was going to waste.

What has been the biggest influence on your career? Two events: The arrival of the Internet has changed everything for business. Also, the credit meltdown and 2007 Great Recession dramatically affected so many people working in finance. Overnight, it felt like I threw away my Rolodex.

What is the most challenging part of your job? The most difficult aspect of my job is working with entrepreneurs who have risked everything to go into business, but for whatever reason, they seem destined to fail and you know you cannot do anything to prevent that from happening.

What is the most rewarding part of your job? Enjoying the success of the SBDC’s small businesses. A close second is working with CSUB students who are interning at the center. As I watch their growth and potential, I know they will become our future leaders.

What is your most memorable career accomplishment? I have had many accomplishments, but I anticipate the most memorable one is still to come.

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