University of Pittsburgh SBDC Lauded as SBA’s Top Center

Pittsburgh District Office  - September 2020

u s small business administration


University of Pittsburgh SBDC Lauded as SBA’s Top Center

Caps Off 40th Anniversary Celebration as Best in the Nation


Release Date: Sept. 22, 2020

Contact: Janet Heyl (202) 845-4255

Release Number: PGH20-30  

IWESTERN PA – Raymond Vargo routinely nominates his clients for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) National Small Business Week Awards. This year, Vargo finds his own organization a national winner. SBA honors the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center (SBDC), during the 57th National Small Business Week celebration, as the SBA’s top SBDC for 2020 out of nearly 1,000 centers across the country.

Vargo and his 10-person staff began their quest at the regional level when they were selected the SBA’s Mid-Atlantic Region SBDC of the Year. The nomination by Pennsylvania SBDC State Director Dr. Ernie Post, was forwarded to SBA headquarters to compete against other regional SBDC winners.

“I’m excited for this recognition as evidence of the great work our SBDC team performs for the small business community in southwestern Pennsylvania,” Vargo said. “Our goal every day is to help entrepreneurs achieve success with their businesses, and this award is a great honor for our staff and its mission."

SBDCs are SBA- and state-funded entities helping entrepreneurs in every phase of development. Vargo’s staff assisted approximately 700 clients last year across three counties. “Every day is different, I never know who I’m going to talk to while learning about their business and industry,” he explained, having assisted retro T-shirt makers, florists, award-winning restauranteurs, printers and even ice cube-makers, help their ideas go from blueprint to fruition.

“Our counselors provide an objective perspective of a business opportunity,” Vargo explained. “It really behooves an aspiring entrepreneur to sit down with us. We take a non-financial and non-emotional look and evaluate the business in terms of marketing, finance, management and overall business operations.”

Jason Capps, owner of Canonsburg’s Bella Sera restaurant, has used Pitt’s SBDC, part of the University’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, for decades. “Ray has helped me every step of the way with business plans, profit and loss statements and obtaining financing for my restaurant,” he said. “We’re in our fifteenth year and I still bounce ideas off Ray.”

SBA Western Pennsylvania District Director Dr. Kelly Hunt believes Pitt’s programming helped set it apart. “All eight SBDCs in our area have an expertise unique to their customer base and coverage area,” she explained. “Pitt’s small business contracting endeavors have been either emulated by other institutions or used throughout the Commonwealth’s 16 SBDC network, with Pitt serving as the Center of Excellence. We’re not only proud they’re being recognized for their service, but also pleased they are an award-winning resource partner.”

Vargo’s vision of Pitt SBDC as a contracting liaison between small businesses, the university and its medical community were realized with two unique programs titled, “UPMC Essentials for Success” and “Doing Business with Pitt.” The yearly programs draw hundreds of small businesses interested in selling their goods and services to Pitt and UPMC. The programs received such positive feedback they’ve expanded into other Pennsylvania communities or have been replicated by other colleges and universities.

However, it’s the small business owners like Capps who continually praise Vargo and Pitt’s center generating more clients and growing the area’s economy. “When people ask how I’m so successful, I tell them ‘find your local SBDC because there are opportunities there for you to start a small business’,” he said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Ray. I’m thrilled they won and it’s well deserved.”  For more information, visit the University of Pittsburgh SBDC at



2020 SBA Resource Partner Winner