Putting More Tools in the Hands of Women Entrepreneurs

Speech Date: 
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Speech Location: 
As Prepared For: 
Marie Johns

Good morning.

I’m so happy to be here at the first of a series of regional conferences on women’s entrepreneurship.

I want to thank all of the staff from SBA’s Denver Office for helping put this event together, including [Deputy District Director] Judy Witthohn, Amy McDowell, and Lonnie Koyama, as well as our Regional Administrator Dan Hannaher and District Director Greg Lopez.

I also want to thank our partners at the National Women’s Business Council, who are collaborating with the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership on this initiative.

SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership oversees our network of 110 Women’s Business Centers, and works to support women entrepreneurs and small business owners.  Women entrepreneurs are very lucky to have such talented staff to rely on.

As you know, the National Women’s Business Council is an important group that advises the President, Congress and the SBA.  Their mission is to promote bold initiatives, policies and programs to support women’s entrepreneurship.

In August, the NWBC got a great new Executive Director in Dana Lewis, who came to the Council from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Office.  Dana – we’re thrilled to have you on board as our partner.

And with our new Chairwoman, Donna James, we have a partner with a powerful combination of executive leadership along with a very fresh and recent experience in starting her own business just a few years ago.  I know she will lead the Council to greater heights than ever before.

We know that women-owned firms are growing at an extraordinary rate.  From 2002-2007, the growth of women-owned firms outpaced firms owned by men at a rate of 4-to-1.  But we also know that women entrepreneurs have a harder time getting credit than their male counterparts.  They’re less likely to use a bank loan.  And they’re less likely to hire employees.

That’s why the White House held a summit on women’s entrepreneurship, and it’s why the National Women’s Business Council is hosting these conferences.

We know that the best ideas will come from women like you who are leading the way in growing businesses, creating jobs, and driving out economy. 

Today, our goal is to link, leverage and align all of our collective efforts in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.  By doing that, we can focus our energy on ensuring that women have the tools they need to build their businesses and create jobs.

We’ve been working very hard at SBA and across the Obama administration to put more tools in the hands of women small business owners.

The Recovery Act is a great example.

The Recovery Act allowed us to raise the guarantee and reduced the fees in our top two loan programs.  This two-part formula nearly doubled our loan volume compared to the weeks before it passed. 

And that’s important because we know that SBA loans are three to five times more likely to go to women and minorities than traditional loans.

So even in a tight credit market, we were able to put 12,000 SBA Recovery loans in the hands of women small business owners – totaling about $3 billion in lending support.  [Possible applause]

Meanwhile, SBA has been helping women-owned firms compete for Recovery Act contracts.  As many of you know, the federal government is charged with putting at least 5% of federal contracts in the hands of small women-owned firms.  I’m pleased to say that with the Recovery Act, we have put 5.5% of those contracts in your hands – nearly $2 billion.

We’re also reaching women entrepreneurs with our counseling programs.  In FY 2009, our Women’s Business Centers and the Office of Women’s Business Ownership trained and counseled over 150,000 women.  And we opened five new WBCs, in Montana, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, DC, and Wyoming last year. 

These Women’s Business Centers do great work.  I visited one in Indianapolis and met a woman who manufactures jewelry.  She had been selling locally, but wanted to branch out.  Well, with the help of the Women’ Business Center, she’s selling her jewelry in Paris and London. 

I think that’s a great story because it shows women that there’s always a next step.  If you have an idea, you can start a business.  If you have a business, you can start exporting or hire more employees. 

Our goal is to put tools in the hands of women business owners so they can succeed every step of the way.

That’s why the President pushed so hard for the Small Business Jobs Act, which he signed into law last month.  This is the most significant piece of small business legislation in over a decade.

It’s going to give more women entrepreneurs the two things they need most to create jobs: more credit and more tax cuts.  

It puts more capital in the hands of small business owners.  It ends programs that have hurt small business contractors in the past, and creates new ones that will help small business contractors in the future.  And it cuts taxes for small businesses eight times.

The Jobs Act continues the increased guarantees and reduced fees that made our Recovery loans so popular.  We estimate that the $505 million for Jobs Act loans in this new law will support about $14 billion in small business lending.

It also permanently more-than-doubles the maximum loan sizes in our top two programs, from $2 million to $5 million. This is will help business owners who need more capital to quickly create jobs, such as exporters, contractors, franchisees, and others.

And it permanently increases the maximum size of our microloans from $35,000 to $50,000. Our data shows that many microloans go to women entrepreneurs who need capital to start their business. 

The Jobs Act also helps SBA get more contracts into the hands of women-owned businesses, by reaffirming “parity” among small-business set aside programs, such as 8(a) firms and firms owned by women and service-disabled veterans.

It also helps SBA combat waste, fraud, and abuse, by enhancing our ability to go after bad actors that misrepresent their business and defraud the government.

The Jobs Act is a monumental piece of legislation that will help millions of women entrepreneurs and small business owners.

But we’re not stopping there.  Back in 2000, Congress authorized SBA to create the Women’s Contracting Rule, which would help more women-owned firms get federal contracts.  Over the past 10 years, it just didn’t happen.

When our Administrator, Karen Mills, took office, she and President Obama decided it was time to get the job done.

SBA developed a strong rule based on data which identified over 80 industries where women-owned firms are underrepresented.  And we reached out and got comments from about 1,000 women leaders – including some who might be here today – to make sure this rule would be a success.

Now, after ten years of waiting, the rule is complete and published in the federal register. 

Over the next four months, we will update our databases to make sure we create an efficient and user-friendly system. 

For example, we will roll out a secure online storage portal for background filings and certification documents for the participating firms.

At the same time, we will train contracting officers in how to set aside opportunities for women-owned firms in these 83 industries.

This means that starting in early 2011, the promise of new opportunities for women-owned small firms in federal contracting will finally be realized.

So, while we’ve accomplished a lot, there is still more work to do. 

We have a distinguished panel coming up to get the ball rolling, and then from there, we’re going to break out into groups to continue the discussion.

But first I want to introduce our moderator.  As Assistant Administrator for Women’s Business Ownership, Ana Harvey oversees SBA’s efforts to support women business owners and promote entrepreneurship among women.  She manages our Women’s Business Centers and works with our district offices to get women the tools they need to start businesses and create jobs.

An entrepreneur herself, Ana started Syntaxis, LLC, an 8(a) certified, multilingual communications company with clients from Fortune 500 companies, to government agencies and nonprofit organizations.  She grew her company from a single English-to-Spanish translation agency into a full-service multilingual communications firm with 75 employees handling communications and translations in 25 languages.

Before coming SBA, Ana served as President of the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  She is a passionate and dedicated advocate for women entrepreneurs, and we are incredibly grateful to have her at SBA.  Please help me welcome Ana Harvey.