The Small Business Administration, or SBA, is a federal government program that has been providing support to small business owners and entrepreneurs since 1953. Their website holds a wealth of information about starting and running a business, including blogs, articles, videos, and training courses. The SBA is not just an educational portal, though. They also offer small business loans and grants and maintain district and regional offices where you can get local assistance. These resources have helped some of the biggest names in business along their journey, including FedEx, Apple, Under Armour, AOL, Ben & Jerry’s, and more.
The SBA is currently run by Maria Contreras-Sweet, who was nominated by President Obama in 2014. Contreras-Sweet has the perfect balance of entrepreneurial and executive experience which is needed to run the SBA. In addition to starting three businesses (including a community bank focused on serving small and mid-sized businesses), she has served as a district manager for the U.S. Census Bureau and a California state cabinet official. As Administrator of the SBA, she works to provide the education and resources that small business owners need to succeed.
In a recent Smart Hustle interview, I had the opportunity to sit down with Contreras-Sweet to talk about her small business advice and the SBA resources that are currently available for small business owners. I encourage you to watch the full video to learn from what Contreras-Sweet has to share. However, here are three main takeaways from the video that I don’t want you to miss.
The Importance of Mentors and Advisors
In our interview, Contreras-Sweet shared her advice for business owners – both brand new business owners as well as the seasoned business owner. Among the ideas she shared was the importance of leaning on mentors and advisors in your industry. You need people you trust and respect to think out loud with – people who will counsel you, are not afraid to say no to you, and can give you a reality check when needed.
Watch the full interview to learn more about this, including what Contreras-Sweet calls “the Benjamin Franklin effect.”
The SBA Is a Champion in YOUR Corner
During the interview, Contreras-Sweet also discusses the resources that are available for small business owners at the SBA – resources which many small business owners aren’t even aware of. The SBA is a champion for small businesses, offering education, advice, guidance, and even billions of dollars in true angel financing. The administration also works hard to promote awareness about the importance of small businesses in America. Two examples are:
- Small Business Week – An SBA event running the first week in May where people across the nation are asked to pause for one week to reflect on the importance of small business in their community – and to celebrate those businesses by shopping local and shopping small.
- Startup in a Day – An SBA initiative that is challenging mayors across the country to think hard about how important small businesses are to the local economy. The initiative invites cities to join the pledge and work with the SBA to develop online resources that make it easier to start a business, provide more transparency, and reduce the time it takes to apply for local permits and licenses.
The main point is that the SBA is a champion in your corner. As Contreras-Sweet puts it:
“We have to amplify the voice of small business. I don’t think small businesses are getting their fair share of what we’re doing for so many others.”
Watch the full interview to learn more about these initiatives and other resources offered by the SBA.
Small Business Is Going Global
Finally, in our interview, Contreras-Sweet also discusses her hopes for the future. She reflects on how a plurality is developing in America – a new America that is more inclusive and more connected around the globe.
One example of how entrepreneurs are coming together is the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. This event, taking place in Silicon Valley this summer, will bring together entrepreneurs at all stages of business development and create opportunities for collaboration, investment and partnership.
Contreras-Sweet says she is encouraged by the fact that we are becoming more inclusive, which allows us to learn more about the people and the market opportunities in other countries around the world. “When you know somebody, you learn to love them. We need to get to know the rest of the world and to embrace them,” says Contreras-Sweet.
This exclusive Smart Hustle interview with Maria Contreras-Sweet is essential listening for all small business owners, so set aside a few minutes of your time to hear about the main takeaways listed above as well as additional small business advice, SBA resources, and interesting information such as what President Obama told her when he invited her to take on the role of Administrator of the SBA. Small business owners are the economic drivers of our country, and we should all be proud to have an organization – and an Administrator – who is committed to helping us succeed.