On her 33rd day as head of the Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet spoke Wednesday about the resources available through the SBA that could help Latinos launch or grow their small businesses.
Its so important to make sure that all of our communities in a very inclusive way know about the programs that we have, she said on a conference call with reporters.
She talked about the work the SBAs Office of Capital Access does through its various programs to provide loans and assistance to small businesses that are seeking to grow. The office particularly targets small businesses that might not otherwise qualify for financing.
Contreras-Sweet said the programs offered by the Office of Capitol Access continue to be effective in providing access to capitol to the Hispanic community and Americans across the country.
Another financial assistance program she talked about is the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program, which is a multibillion dollar federal program that helps provide finance to small businesses. SBICs are privately owned and managed investment funds that are licensed and regulated by the SBA. They use their own capital plus funds borrowed with an SBA guarantee to make equity and debt investments in qualifying small businesses.
Besides financial assistance program, Contreras-Sweet also spoke about the multiple counseling centers located throughout the country that offer counsel to small business owners on how to refine their business plans. The centers also provide information on how to start and grow a small business.
Furthermore, Contreras-Sweet also talked about the emerging entrepreneur training program. The MBA-style program puts people through eight weeks of training to help them build a sustainable business.
For small business owners looking for federal contracting opportunities, Contreras-Sweet said the SBA has programs in place to guide them through the process of biding on federal contracts. She said small business owners are provided with resources on how to best represent their business to potential buyers, research the federal marketplace for available opportunities and understand the competition.
Im committed to helping small businesses make sure that theyre getting their fare share of the largest [procurement] in the world the U.S. government, she said.
Contreras-Sweet wants Latinos to benefit from SBA resources
Contreras-Sweet knows a lot about starting and managing a small business. She founded a venture capital firm and built a community bank to serve traditionally underserved Latino communities in California before Vice President Joe Biden swore her in as head the SBA last month.
The native of Mexico also knows that Latinos represent the fastest-growing segment among small businesses.
A recent report by Geoscape projected that the number of Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. would grow to more than 3.16 million in 2013, representing a growth of nearly 40 percent since 2007. The report also found that the Latino share of new entrepreneurs has increased significantly, from 10.5 percent in 1996 to 19.5 percent in 2012.
Given the large number of Latino entrepreneurs, Contreras-Sweet said she wants to ensure that Latinos and others are taking advantage of the bounty of federal programs that can help them start and grow their businesses.
Contreras-Sweet said often times, there are entrepreneurs who dont know about the programs and services that the SBA offers and miss out. But she added that those who do take advantage of the SBAs services and programs find them to be rewarding.
She also recounted how through the traveling she has done over the last 33 days that shes been on the job, she has met small business owners who tell her how SBA employees have inspired them, provided them with a path forward and given them technical skills to apply in their businesses.
I actually visited a business recently and this gentleman said that he could not have started the business and enjoy the success he has had it not been for his mentor at the SBA, she said.
As Contreras-Sweet continues her work as head of the SBA, she said she wants to ensure more Latinos, as well as members of traditionally underserved communities, know about the ways that the SBA can help them launch and grow their small businesses.
While weve been having great success, I think we can do more to make sure that all of our communities know about these programs, she said.