Sarah Truglio, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC), was named the 2020 State Star during the network’s annual spring conference in April.
The State Star award is the network’s top honor and is given to a business advisor who exemplifies the highest standards of professional behavior while helping small business owners start, grow or buy/sell a business.
“Sarah consistently receives top marks from SBDC clients for the caliber of her work,” said Duane Fladland. “It’s indicative of Sarah’s commitment to her clients that over the past three years, three of her clients have recognized for significant achievement by the U.S. Small Business Administration.”
“Whether she is working with clients, with colleagues in the network or with other technical assistance providers,” Fladland said, “Sarah is always the consummate professional.”
Ron Nielsen, the SBDC regional manager for Eastern Washington, said Truglio exemplifies the qualities that all SBDC advisors strive for. She is caring and kind, he said, and she is also highly skilled and clear-eyed in her approach.
Susie Jensen, owner of Wheel Line Cider in Ellensburg, started working with Truglio in 2019 when she needed assistance with a business plan competition.
“Sarah has the unique ability to listen and then guide you at the level of your understanding,” Jensen said. If one suggestion doesn’t work, she’ll find another, Jensen said. “And the best part is, she ALWAYS responds immediately and with enthusiasm and a smile. She is my guiding STAR!”
For her part, Truglio says working with small business owners and entrepreneurs feeds her soul.
“Very few people are lucky enough to find a job they really love,” she said, “and I am so lucky that I get to do this every day.”
Truglio is one of more than 35 SBDC certified business advisors working in communities across the state who provide confidential, one-on-one, no-cost advising to small business owners at any stage of business development and in nearly any industry. SBDC services are funded by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration at the federal level and by funding from institutions of higher education, economic development agencies, municipal governments, civic organizations and business groups at the state and local level. Truglio is co-located with the Yakima County Development Association which helps fund her position.
Being a small business advisor during the pandemic meant Truglio has witnessed first-hand both the devastating losses that so many business owners faced and also their incredible courage and resiliency in responding to the crisis.
“People needed to know they weren’t alone,” Truglio said, and during the pandemic many business owners felt very alone.
Now, with restrictions starting to ease, Truglio said she is seeing a resurgence of hope.
“The Phoenix rises, that’s what I’m seeing,” she said. “I am seeing an uptick in people who want to start a business. They see an opportunity.”
Whether she’s helping someone start a new business or save an existing business, Truglio said she believes “creative perseverance” is critical to success. Sometimes people do their homework and follow best practices and things seem to fall into place. But other times people work just as hard or harder and hit barriers that seem overwhelming.
“A lot of my clients don’t take a traditional path to success,” she said. “They find alternative routes and they persist.”
“I love working with people who dreamed of owning their own business, but never thought it would really happen,” she said. “It makes me happy to help someone who didn’t think they could do it.”
Truglio, who grew up working in family-owned small businesses, started her own small business when she was 22 years old. A self-taught designer, she created flower arrangements for weddings, other events, hotels and restaurants in California’s Napa Valley.
Trulgio spent about 10 years in event planning and hospitality, and then another ten years in economic development with Kittitas County before joining the Washington SBDC.
One thread that ties together floral design, event planning and economic development, she said, is that to be successful, you need to listen to the client and understand what they are trying to accomplish.
“That’s what we do as SBDC advisors,” she said. “We listen to clients and then provide information, tools and resources that enable them to accomplish their own goals, whatever those goals might be.”
A favorite quote of Truglio’s is from Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why,” in which he talks about the importance of finding work that is personally fulfilling. “Inspire people to do the things that inspire them and, together, we can change the world.”
As an SBDC advisor, Truglio strives to not only inspire people to do the work they are called to do, but give them the practical assistance they need to succeed.
Truglio lives in Central Washington with her family.
by Hope B. Tinney, Washington Small Business Development Center
For more information about the Washington SBDC go to www.wsbdc.org