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Alumna Heidi Melancon helps small businesses during pandemic

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Due to the pandemic, many small businesses across the country have closed or are struggling to operate. Heidi Melancon '90 '00 is the regional director of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) at UL Lafayette. This agency provides support and consulting assistance with no cost to small businesses.

Melancon is a UL Lafayette graduate, where she pursued her bachelor's and master's degrees. She has continued to be part of the University by serving as a council member for the UL Lafayette Alumni Association. While on the Alumni Council, Melancon was a part of the Outstanding Graduate and scholarship committees. In the community, she serves as an advisory member for the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program for the Lafayette Regional Airport and the business department at South Louisiana Community College. She also serves on the board of directors for Opportunity Machine.

Melancon enjoyed every minute of her experience as a student at UL Lafayette. "Even though I grew up two hours away, I didn't know much about Cajun culture. It was exciting for me to immerse myself in a whole new area," said Melancon. While she was an undergraduate student, she was a student worker for the accounting department and later started working at a CPA firm. "You learn a lot when you work at the same time as you study. I have to credit my work experience during college as really being a very great way to learn about business," said Melancon.

Her journey with the Louisiana Small Business Development Center began in 2005. As the regional director of LSBDC at UL Lafayette, she handles eight parishes in Acadiana, helping small businesses with one-on-one counseling. The agency also helps with entrepreneurship readiness, economic development, and business ownership. "We build up to 50 pieces of training [material] a year on different subject matters from procuring capital to how to write a business plan," said Melancon.

Since the pandemic started, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at UL Lafayette has helped business owners with loan programs, assisting them with economic relief. Hurricane season has had a significant impact on businesses as well. "Once the two hurricanes hit, we went into disaster mode, helping businesses that were affected by the hurricane," said Melancon. Even though so many businesses have had to face obstacles this year, the Louisiana Small Business Development Center helps them in every possible way.

As Melancon continues to help small businesses, she wants owners to know that there are programs in place to help them understand how to navigate changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other business-related issues. She advises small businesses to plan for the future and be open to new opportunities. "During this time, evaluating business strategies is a must," said Melancon. If you're interested in learning more about the Louisiana Small Business Development Center at UL Lafayette, you can visit their website or email them at lsbdc.ull@louisianasbdc.org.

Photo Caption: Heidi Melancon

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