After 26 years with the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, Eric Bonaparte retired – but his contributions to the UGA SBDC would continue.

“To those who have known Eric it is no surprise that he would not only support the SBDC but also place a particular emphasis on recognizing individuals who have excelled in helping others,” said Allan Adams, state director. “Eric has enjoyed great success at everything he has done at the SBDC, but he is most appreciated for his concern and regard for people – be they colleagues, clients or students.

Together with his sister Carol Bonaparte, Eric gifted $25,000 to UGA to create the Eric Stanley Bonaparte Award Endowment Fund. The fund was established to provide ongoing financial support for annual Consultant of the Year and Support Staff of the Year awards.

“For those of us who have gotten to know Carol we have seen she shares the same gracious traits Eric has when it comes to dealing with people. She and Eric have a very close relationship and Carol understands Eric’s great commitment to the mission of the SBDC,” said Adams. “She wanted to share in this recognition of others and she wanted to support the lasting impact Eric has had on our organization and in the lives of those with whom he works.”

Eric continues to work with the UGA SBDC part-time during his retirement. He returns every year to the SBDC’s annual award ceremony to help distribute the awards.

“I’m looking forward to being there every year,” said Bonaparte. “I want this to be an inspiration to other people.”

Eric and Carol Bonaparte with Alisa Kirk (middle), recipient of the first “Consultant of the Year” award provided by the Endowment.

“I know how much doesn’t get recognized,” said Bonaparte. “Consultants don’t work just 40-hour weeks.”

Bonaparte’s UGA career began in 1991 in the UGA SBDC in DeKalb, where he was at first the only consultant, managing about 250 clients. By the next year, he had about 450 clients, some just coming into business, some at a point where they could make or break. He helped entrepreneurs secure loans and create a plan to launch new businesses. He helped guide small businesses as they grew. Over the years, he watched some flourish and some falter. He celebrated their successes and mourned the failures.

He began working specifically with minority entrepreneurs, helping them prepare for their meetings with banks and learn best practices for starting a business. Bonaparte was the SBDC’s first minority finance specialist and from 2001-2006, he was head of the SBDC’s Office of Minority Business Development, a statewide position focusing on helping minorities develop and grow their businesses.

“It’s nice to feel that my gift is leaving a legacy that will improve others’ lives.  It’s also a way to show my loyalty to the university that’s been loyal to my family and me.”