In Series 5 we are winding down on Day 2 at the National Press Club. As a part of the Top 100 Businesses chosen nationwide we got a change to get up-close and personal with Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) at the National Press Club. Before giving you more information about our chat with Administrator Contreras-Sweet, we want to say thank you to our Keynote Speakers: New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Senator Gillibrand spoke about women entrepreneurship and how paid family medical leave is improving State to State while Senator Klobuchar discussed immigration reform and workforce development. Remember, don’t forget to read Small Business Leadership Summit Mixer (Series 1), Access to Capital (Series 2), Technology and Minority Entrepreneurship (Series 3) and Taxes and the Economy (Series 4).
Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet was extremely personable and engaging as she spoke with us about several things that was important to us as business owners from inspiration, innovation and access to capital to the SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative. She provided us inspiration when she told of her journey to America. She came to America from Guadalajara, Mexico as a child with the inability to speak English. Once Maria began to learn English, embrace the encouragement of her family and began to gain her footing in America she established great success and prestige. Maria held several positions within the financial industry and one of her greatest accomplishments was founding, ProAmerica Bank in Los Angeles. Prior to being selected by President Obama as the Administrator for the Small Business Administration (SBA) ProAmerica Bank’s target market was the small to medium businesses within the Latino community. Maria’s goal was to bring business empowerment and to help the Latino community scale up as business owners.
As it pertained to innovation she told us that anything is possible it all depends upon how you look at it. Not only is Maria an example but she provided us several other examples of how people used what was around them to make a difference. Let me share a few of them with you:
- Specialized spoon for those living with Parkinson’s, the spoon minimizes the shaking effect when eating
- Sustainable mushroom products to replace Styrofoam products
- Weekly quilt classes on Youtube that helped the business owner to increase sales and to become a solid brand
Maria created a new name Smart Bold Accessible for the Small Business Administration (SBA) because she envisioned a different and better path for SBA and its services. In this vision she notes a few things that can be either changed and/or improved immediately to fit into the name that she has branded for the SBA. Maria is working diligently to see it happen. She has taken on the financial industry again by seeking programs to improve access to capital and contract opportunities especially for Women Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs). For better resources in acquiring access to capital for business owners there is the SBA LINC. SBA LINC is a system that is similar to the Match.com process. Like Match.com you, the business owner answer specific questions in which you are then matched more precisely with an approved SBA lender that would best suit your business needs from staring a business and tenant improvements to working capital.
In order to help Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSBs) to scale up Marie has taken the charge to improve the programs that focus on women. Marie realized that women were one of the most disadvantaged and underrepresented businesses and knew that in order to level the playing field that there were several elements that needed to be changed and/or improved. Marie is working on more set-aside programs for women businesses.
Another great opportunity that Marie mentioned was the SBA Emerging Leaders Initiative that is similar to being certified under the SBA 8(a) Program. The Initiative is a seven-month training program designed to help growing businesses deal with the challenges of scaling up. The program is free and hosted in special areas depending upon host funds.
There are so many things that one can do to scale up from incorporating a new marketing strategy and partnering with another like business on a particular contract to either adding and/or improving an existing product or services. Share with us what you are doing to grow your business. We would love to hear from you. Of all of the submittals we will choose a few comments to post, will it be yours?
Connect with us @JEGroupBiz on Twitter, or Jabez Enterprise Group on LinkedIn or Facebook to see what we are doing next or to see your post. For economic development for your business’ growth don’t forget to pick up your copy of Get the Cheese, Avoid the Traps: An Interactive Guide to Government Contracting today.
All photos courtesy of Vernita Naylor, Jabez Enterprise Group (JEGroup) Unless Otherwise Noted.