Saguid receives Washington SBDC top honor

SPOKANE, Wash.—The Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has named Giselle Saguid the network’s State Star for 2024. Being named State Star is the highest honor awarded to an SBDC employee and is celebrated annually at the America’s SBDC national conference in September.

“Giselle is truly a star in our network,” said Washington SBDC State Director Sheryl McGrath. “Her dedication to and success working with emerging entrepreneurs, those who are starting a business for the first time, those looking to export products or even get into government contracting is outstanding.”  The award was announced at the Washington SBDC spring conference in mid-April.

Saguid, who was born in the Philippines, joined the Washington SBDC in 2017, but she has been helping entrepreneurs start and grow small businesses in one way or another for nearly 25 years. In 2023, Saguid provided technical assistance to more than 180 small businesses, including 18 new business starts. 

“The new American Dream is not really owning your own home now, it’s owning your own business,” Saguid said. “I love helping people make that dream come true.”

Often, she said, a new client will come to her with a specific question and once they have the answer they are off and running. Other times, she said, she will work with a client for months or even years as their business grows and evolves.

While the technical information she provides is critical, clients say they also appreciate her positive outlook and patience. On a recent survey, a client wrote, “I am SO GLAD I had the opportunity to meet with Giselle! She listened carefully to me and gave me great insight into my questions and did not waste one moment of our time. So, so helpful.”

Saguid said she enjoys working with people from all walks of life, but she feels a special affinity for working with the historically underserved. “As a woman and a brown person,” she said, “I look like them and I think like them, and I can relate to what they are going through.”

Aspiring entrepreneurs often come to her with ideas—and a willingness to work hard—but what they need is information. Saguid said she gets great satisfaction from helping people find the information or answers they need. “I really don’t know everything,” she said, and laughed, “but I know where to look and my fingers are fast.”

Saguid said she always attempts to meet clients where they are and help them take the next step forward. “I will go with you as far as we can go,” she said. But, if someone comes to talk with her about a business idea that they later abandon because the numbers don’t work out, she considers that a success, too.

Saguid said she always recommends starting with a business plan. “It’s not that I want to make things hard for people,” she said, “but I want them to really think through what it will take to start and run a business.” she said. Too often, she said, people tend to underestimate their expenses and overestimate their revenue, which never ends well.

“Sometimes I can help save time, money, heartaches…even relationships,” she said.

Saguid began her career in the Philippines as an account officer with a microfinance company, providing microloans to women entrepreneurs.  In 2007, she and her husband, Andrew Saguid, an aviation maintenance administrator, with the U.S. Navy, moved to Everett, Wash., where she began working with the Northwest Washington Women’s Business Center, first as a business advisor and later as the program director. In 2013 she began working part-time as an administrative assistant to the SBDC advisor located at Edmonds College, and when he retired in 2015 she began working part-time with the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship. In 2018 she returned to the Washington SBDC and became an associate business advisor focusing primarily on early stage business development.

Saguid is one of more than 40 SBDC advisors in Washington state who provide no-cost, one-on-one assistance to business owners at any stage of business development and in just about every industry. While every SBDC advisor is expected to assist their clients with diverse challenges from business plans and marketing to strategic planning and cashflow management, Saguid has become one of the network’s go-to experts on new business starts and working with women, immigrants and other BIPOC business owners.

In 2013 Saguid was named the SBA’s Seattle District Veteran Small Business Champion of the Year and in 2024 she was named the Black-Owned Business Ally of the Year by the Black-Owned Business Excellence (BOBE) collaboration. Saguid has been a heavily involved in publicizing and promoting the activities of BOBE since it was founded in 2020. Saguid has twice received the Spirit of the SBDC award, which is an internal honor voted on by her colleagues.

Saguid and her husband have two sons, Brandon and Elijah, ages 16 and 13.