Director of the UGA SBDC International Trade Center
Darrel Hulsey has spent the last 30 years helping small businesses in Georgia thrive. As the director of the International Trade Center at the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Hulsey spends his days helping small business owners begin exporting their products to international markets.
Hulsey earned a degree in marketing from the University of North Georgia and spent seven years in banking before becoming an independent contractor handling mergers and acquisitions. When he saw a job posting for the UGA SBDC, he welcomed the opportunity to work more one-on-one with individuals.
“What really intrigued me was that the SBDC was able to work with businesses and help them as they grow and expand. The helping aspect was what really hooked me into this job,” Hulsey said. “Working with the SBDC, our objective is to help others reach tangible results of growth and profit in their business.”
Today, Hulsey works with 15 to 20 Georgia-based, international companies through the SBDC’s International Trade Center (ITC) in Lawrenceville. In addition to administrative responsibilities, he provides business consulting alongside a team of international trade consultants.
Hulsey has had three decades to hone his craft, but he continues to find opportunities for growth.
“It started out where I was doing domestic financing or just helping businesses with their regular financing. Then as my tenure got longer with the SBDC, I kind of evolved into working more and more with companies that do international trade financing – which is quite interesting and can be rather complex,” Hulsey said. “To me that was the key, finding something that challenges me.”
The state of Georgia has a large pool of companies involved in international trade, primarily in manufacturing, wholesale and agriculture. In 2021, Georgia merchandise exports totaled more than $42 billion, and nearly 85 percent of Georgia exporters were small- and medium-sized firms. These industries were particularly hit during the pandemic due to travel and shipping restrictions.
“My clients had not only the domestic concerns, but also the international impact of the pandemic,” Hulsey said. “More than anything, we have learned to be prepared and expect the unexpected. This had never happened before.”
While the pandemic was a new experience it was not Hulsey’s first encounter with crisis management.
“I was part of a team that worked relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina. I and some others from the SBDC went to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and spent a couple weeks helping out businesses that had been devastated by the hurricane. We did relief efforts and provided assistance with applications for disaster loans. That was some of the most rewarding work I’ve done with the SBDC,” Hulsey said.
His work in Mississippi earned him the Distinguished Service Award from America’s Small Business Development Centers, the national accreditor of the SBDCs across the United States.
“I enjoy helping people. I enjoy hearing about and seeing them use maybe a little bit of the assistance we have given and see them grow and expand,” he said.
Similar to his role at the ITC, Hulsey’s relief work extends beyond domestic borders. Hulsey has spent time in Moldova through a relief organization, and has frequented other regions of Eastern Europe, fueled by his love of travel.
Over his time with the SBDC, Hulsey has also been awarded Consultant of the Year and the national State Star, an award given by America’s Small Business Development Center network.
“Those were very humbling awards because they are peer-oriented, so it’s nice to get recognition from your peers,” Hulsey said. “It gives you a good feeling that you’re doing the right thing, that you’re doing the job right.”
By: Irene Wright