For my money, "the real SBA" can disappear. Two small business ventures have left me completely disenchanted with that agency.

A well-funded partnership closed its doors because we did not have the knowledge and expertise to get it past the breakeven point. Small Business Administration workshops covered only common-sense concepts and were designed for people considering starting a business rather than for those already in one. The Service Core of Retired Executives volunteer assigned to us talked in such generalities and was so noncommittal that he was useless. Our registration on the SBA's government bid list netted us nothing.

My present sales proprietorship (originally housed in a spare bedroom and funded from the household budget) has doubled gross income in each of its three years of existence -- no thanks to the SBA. The library and personal contacts have been my teachers, but funding has been a problem from the beginning. Lacking real estate for collateral, I had to demand the right to apply for loans at banks. When these were rejected, I turned to the SBA, only to find that the agency's requirements were the same as those of the banks: If the banks would not take the risk, neither would the SBA.

We still need funding, but I have learned a lot about using 30-day accounts, personal credit cards, and the like to generate cash flow and operating capital. We will keep growing slowly until we can locate someone willing to provide financial backing on the basis of our track record -- then we will grow quickly!

It seems to me that if the SBA provides neither funding nor training, it has no purpose and should cease to exist. It is simply draining tax dollars and providing no service to small business or anybody else. Thank you for letting me know that I have not been alone in my frustrations.