My Inspirational First Month at SBA

One month ago, I took my oath and was given the opportunity of a lifetime to be a champion for America’s small businesses.

In my first public statement after my swearing-in, I talked about my intention to support our job creators and build the U.S. economy from the middle out; to promote lending that reflects the diversity of America by getting capital to the areas that need it the most; and to use technology and best practices in customer service to make it easier for borrowers to borrow and lenders to lend.

Then, I immediately embarked on a listening tour to send a signal to entrepreneurs that I wanted a robust dialogue and open lines of communication to understand the range of challenges that America’s small businesses owners face.

It has been an exhilarating first month. On my third day on the job, I defended our FY15 budget before the Senate. I went to to the Pentagon to meet with transitioning service members taking an SBA course on how to apply their military skills to civilian entrepreneurship. And I visited Washington state to accelerate the deployment of disaster aid to businesses and families impacted by the devastating mudslide.

I testified at a field hearing that explored how small business R&D can create more high-growth, high-paying jobs. Then, I met with military leaders to make sure the Department of Defense is making procurement decisions that harness the incredible innovation happening at small firms. I traveled to Baltimore and Boise to talk to emerging leaders and women-owned businesses about how to plug into federal contracting opportunities and earn business from the world’s top buyer of goods and services: the United States government.

I sat down with women and minority entrepreneurs to hear about their challenges in getting access to capital, and I shared their stories this past week at two major lending conferences to explain SBA regulatory changes that will make it easier to get capital to neighborhoods the recession left behind.  We dropped the so-called “wealth test” and “nine-month rule,” and we announced more collateral flexibility for our borrowers. These important technical changes will all increase the number of small businesses that qualify for SBA assistance.

At each stop, I’ve evangelized the SBA message of “three Cs and a D” – our work to deliver capital, contracts, counseling and disaster assistance, which comprise the core of this agency’s mission.

My listening tour continues Monday with the kickoff of National Small Business Week at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. Soon, I’ll sit down with our exceptional SBA staff and begin the process of taking the insights gleaned from my time on the road to develop an action plan to take our agency to the next level.

But as I reflect on an eventful first month, the word that stays in my head is “inspirational.” As our field team knows so well, our work does more than help America’s small businesses succeed and our economy grow. So often, what we’re really doing is empowering our entrepreneurs to give back and lift up entire communities.

We’re helping women like Dr. Carla Thomas serve generations of families in her hometown of Inglewood, California. Less than four percent of this nation’s dentists are African American, but with a real estate loan backed by SBA, Dr. Thomas now has her own building and a thriving practice three miles from the house where she grew up. She stayed “home” to provide dental care to local children and generations of families who need her. Dr. Thomas calls her practice “The Smile Studio.” Watch the video above, and you’ll see why her unique commitment to give back in Inglewood gives us all a reason to smile.

Publication Date (Future dating allowed): 
Friday, May 9, 2014 - 6:30pm