🗣 Locals to Know: Meet Dr. Kelly Hunt, the Washington County businesswoman helping local entrepreneurs

Kelly Hunt headshot

Thanks for talking with us! Tell our readers a bit about who you are and what you do with the SBA.

I’m the local district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, or SBA, and we help entrepreneurs and seasoned small business owners in all phases of growth. I’m personally responsible for carrying out our mission of helping small businesses start, grow, expand and recover in 27 western Pennsylvania counties. And I have lots of help—I work with an amazing team of specialists and 12 official SBA resource partners. We all share the same goal—to continue growing the economy through small business ownership.

How long have you lived in Pittsburgh, and what did you do before joining the SBA?

I’m a native of Washington County and the daughter of an entrepreneur. In fact, my dad still owns and operates the same auto repair shop where I helped him during my teenage years.

I joined the Air Force right out of high school and served on active duty as a security policeman for nine years. During that time, I started going to college and really got interested in entrepreneurship. Soon after, my husband and I started our first business. You could say I’ve never lost that entrepreneurial spirit. After a career in higher education, and a detour through economic development, I found my way back to Pittsburgh and to the SBA. 

What makes Pittsburgh’s small business landscape unique?

Pittsburgh’s small business landscape mirrors its physical landscape and truly encapsulates all business sectors. The city is blessed with a unique topography ranging from hills and valleys to waterfronts and flat lands. And our small business sector is the same, encompassing everything from robotics and technology-based businesses to manufacturers, vibrant Main Street shopping districts and unlimited recreational ancillary small business opportunities. In a nutshell, the city and its small business landscape have opportunities for everyone.

What are some of the challenges facing Pittsburgh-area small businesses, and what are some solutions or bright spots that balance those out?

No matter where a small business is located, funding and finding customers can present challenges. I can tell you firsthand that Pittsburgh boasts a vibrant network of lenders, economic development agencies, nonprofit organizations and SBA official resource partners all working with the entrepreneurial community. They’ll let you know if your business opportunity is feasible and can generate income. We’ll help you look at various funding pools that you may not have known existed and help turn that idea into a small business. When you open a small business here, you’ll have an extended group to help you every step of the way.

What happens during Small Business Week, and how can our readers get involved?

This year’s four-day celebration is virtual and chock-full of information for small business owners, whether they are looking for critical federal resources and new business strategies,or just to network and chat online with both industry experts and other small business owners from across the country. The national event concludes on Thursday, May, 5 with the announcement of the Small Business Person of the Year, and I’m proud to say that a western Pennsylvania manufacturer is vying for the title. Interested entrepreneurs and small businesses can register at https://www.sba.gov/national-small-business-week. Another great way to celebrate Small Business Week is to make a special effort to visit your neighbors who own and operate a small business and support your Main Street Business District. 

Lastly, where are we likely to bump into you around town on a typical day off?

I have a large extended family in the Pittsburgh area, specifically Washington County. In my down time, you’ll find me with my daughters and granddaughters enjoying local events and activities. As a business owner myself, I think all of western Pennsylvania pretty much knows I shop at small businesses and share those positive experiences with my staff and pretty much everyone I meet.

Interested in being featured and want to share your own cool project in the ‘Burgh? Send an email to [email protected] with the subject line “TI Locals to Know 2022” and you just might  see yourself in a future newsletter.