SAN BENITO, RGV – Yolanda Garcia Olivarez, regional administrator for the South Central Region of the U.S. Small Business Administration, will be in the Rio Grande Valley today and tomorrow for a series of events designed to promote small businesses.

The SBA focuses on three key areas to help prospective small business owners: Capital – access to financing options to start or grow a business; Contracts – the SBA encourages federal agencies to award more contracts to small businesses; and Counseling – seminars, assistance with writing business plans, market studies, sales projections, certifications and eligibility determination.

Among the highlights of the visit will be attending Memorandum of Understanding signing agreements with the economic development corporations of San Benito and Pharr, attending workshops in McAllen and Pharr that will focus on exporting to international markets, and meeting Jennifer and Sam Shipp, founders of Brilliant Inventors, LLC, and designers of The Knife Glider. The U.S. Small Business Administration has named Jennifer Shipp one of ten finalists for the 2016 InnovateHER Business Challenge.

The MOUs being signed this evening in San Benito and Pharr on Wednesday afternoon are being titled Strategic Alliance Memorandums, and they commit the SBA and the local economic development corporations to continue to collaborate to assist small businesses. “No expenditures by San Benito are required under this MOU. The document simply formalizes the type of collaboration that we do already to help small businesses,” said Salomon Torres, executive director of San Benito EDC.

Garcia Olivarez will meet with San Benito Mayor Celeste Sanchez at 4 p.m. today. This will be followed at 4:30 p.m. by the MOU signing ceremony. SBA District Director Angela Burton and San Benito EDC Board President Fred Garza will sign the MOU in a public ceremony at the San Benito Municipal Building.

“The SAM is intended to spur economic development through small business growth, and to improve entrepreneurial education that advances greater access to capital, expanded technical assistance and access to procurement programs,” Burton told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Burton signed a similar MOU with the City of Brownsville last month.

The MOU between the SBA and Pharr Economic Development Corporation will be signed at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Pharr on Wednesday afternoon. Burton and Pharr EDC Executive Director Sergio Contreras will sign the documents. At the same venue, the SBA will, in conjunction with Pharr EDC and the U.S. Commercial Service will host a “Meeting the Challenges and Seizing the Opportunities in Exporting” workshop. The aim of the workshop, Burton told the Rio Grande Guardian, is to “provide information on international loans and technical assistance available for entrepreneurs.” The workshop starts at 1:30 p.m.

Earlier in the day, Garcia Olivarez will attend another “Meeting the Challenges and Seizing the Opportunities in Exporting” workshop. This one is being sponsored by McAllen Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Commercial Service. The workshop takes place at the McAllen Chamber of Commerce, starting at 9 a.m.

At the McAllen Chamber will also be the venue for Garcia Olivarez’s meeting with the Shipps. Jennifer and Sam Shipp’s The Knife Glider is a cutting shield that has been statistically proven to reduce the probability of being injured or cut when preparing food with a knife by more than 90 percent. The design has catapulted Jennifer Shipp into the shortlist for the SBA’s InnovateHER, a nationwide business competition to highlight innovative products and services created and launched by cutting-edge entrepreneurs.

“SBA has turned the spotlight on a brilliant invention created by a Rio Grande Valley entrepreneur that is making kitchens safer for both amateur and professional cooks,” Garcia Olivarez said. “Finding and rewarding these visionaries is the message of InnovateHER. Entrepreneurship makes anything possible.”

During her visit, Garcia Olivarez is expected to speak in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “TPP promises to help open doors for small businesses that would otherwise remain closed. The TPP is the first trade agreement that incorporates a chapter specifically to breaking down the barriers to exporting faced by small businesses,” the SBA’s office states.

On Thursday, Garcia Olivarez will visit Alice, Robstown, Corpus Christi and Rockport. During her three-day swing through South Texas, Garcia Olivarez will meet with local mayors and city officials in Brownsville, Pharr, San Benito, Alice, Corpus Christi, Kingsville, Robstown and Rockport to urge them to take the “StartUp in A Day Pledge.” SBA’s goal to enable Rio Grande Valley and Coastal Bend entrepreneurs to discover and apply for all city, county, state, and federal licenses and permits needed to start a business in 24 hours or less.

The South Central Region of the SBA covers the states of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma.