How SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman is Making Sure Small Businesses Have the Resources They Need to Thrive

The United States Small Business Administration plays a vital role in the growth, development, and advancement of small businesses across the country. On this week’s episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier, business consultant for the UGA Small Business Development Center, is joined by Isabella Casillas Guzman, the 27th Administrator for the U.S. SBA. Administrator Guzman was previously the Director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate under Gov. Gavin Newsom. In March, she was sworn into the SBA under President Biden, and now represents more than 30 million small businesses in the United States.

Transcription: 

Mark Collier:
Welcome into the playbook on ASBN Administrator Guzman. Thank you so much. The SBA is under your leadership and has rolled out some impactful new relief and recovery programs. Would you mind sharing with me your perspective on how these new initiatives will deliver some much-needed relief and support to small businesses?

Isabella Casillas Guzman:
The SBA has been so proud to be an important part of the American rescue plan and making sure that we can get back on track. You know, we know that we have provided some critical relief to many of our small businesses that have helped them survive. And now we’re looking forward to helping them thrive into the future with our great access to capital programs, access to marketplaces the revenue side of the equation, and access to networks. You know, I know that we, in particular, have rolled out with PPP economic injury, disaster loans, the shuttered venue operator grants, such a highly impacted industry, as well as the restaurant vitalization fund, just some critical relief. That’s helped our businesses retain their workforces cover critical expenses during this time. And so that we’re positioned to make sure that they can thrive into the future.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Here at the UGA SBDC, we’ve played a pivotal role in terms of on-the-ground support for small businesses and working hand in hand with the SBA to deliver what we feel hopefully will keep us on that upward trajectory, economic growth, and recovery.

Isabella Casillas Guzman:
Yes, definitely. I think that it’s so critical for us to continue to build these great partnerships that we have on the ground to connect to communities, especially our emerging entrepreneurs are the changing face of entrepreneurship reflects that women and people of color and communities across the country are really changing the future trajectory of our global competitiveness. We want to make sure that they in particular have the resources through these local experts who can connect them and give them the resources that they need on the ground.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. So speaking of new programs, the infrastructure bill is now at the cusp of being passed. And I love, I would love to gather your thoughts on the role. You see small businesses playing in its implementation,

Isabella Casillas Guzman:
Small businesses are giants in the economy. They touch every industry, every critical part of our economy, and they will have a critical role to play in rebuilding our infrastructure across the board, whether it’s, you know, bridges or on the clean energy front, small businesses will have a role to play on the innovation front, as well as the actual implementation. So we will continue to support those businesses with the capital. They need the financing that needs to support their businesses as well as the resources around innovation that the SBA deploys I think importantly, small businesses as well really are, are key to generating ideas and innovation that will help us regain our critical leadership around exporting Thai technology. President Biden has committed in this historical investment in infrastructure to ensuring that we have the systems in place for, especially all of our underserved businesses, to be able to be a part of rebuilding at this critical time, you know, making sure that it’s you know, that we are making an America, those, those global products that will definitely take us into the future.

Mark Collier:
And you touched on two key critical areas, financing and capital. Both of those are the lifeblood of small businesses, and I’m certainly pleased to hear that you kind of put an emphasis on getting capital into the hands of small businesses, who, as you said, are the economic drivers of this economy.

Isabella Casillas Guzman:
We are looking forward to having a, you know, not only with the American jobs plan in addition, you know, the SBA can be positioned with some really strong support across our investments and capital programs or lending programs to make sure that businesses get the funds that they need to take advantage of these opportunities to grow.

Mark Collier (04:39):
So kind of looking forward, what are some of the similar priorities the SBA has identified in terms of future needs for small businesses as the economy starts to gain some momentum.

Isabella Casillas Guzman:
I’ve asked my team to be as entrepreneurial as the small businesses that we serve. I think that’s how we’re going to make sure that we, you know, deliver the help that we need to small businesses. And we’ve been successful as a result of that focus, that emphasis we’ve had to pivot and adapt just like small businesses have had to as they’ve small businesses have changed. And so I think what’s critical is that we put the customer first, we’re technology forward and where you approach all of our programs with equity in mind, we need to make sure that all of our small businesses have the resources that they need.

Isabella Casillas Guzman:
So truly looking at the future, especially as we look at investing and made in America, our supply chains, making sure that our businesses are contract ready. That’s going to be a large focus of us as at the SBA, in addition looking towards global markets and making sure that our businesses are positioned for e-commerce opportunities or, you know, global exports. I think that, um, you know, that’s really important. All of our, our businesses now with the technology that they’ve adopted at such high are positioned to compete in e-commerce. We want to make sure that supported. Um, and then of course, capital, we need to make sure that we are being transformative about the products that we offer and how we deliver them. And everything’s on the table, including direct lending for small-dollar loans, as we know that businesses need that capital to start and grow and thrive

Mark Collier:
Well, that’s great. And, and I, I’m very pleased to hear that you’re looking at new programs and new initiatives, and I know the SBA has supported and promoted a diversity and inclusion business owner groups in the past. Are there plans for any new programs or specific initiatives targeted to those groups are kind of moving forward?

Isabella Casillas Guzman :
Yes, I was very pleased. The American rescue plan included the community navigator pilot program. We see that as a great opportunity to expand our partnerships with trusted local organizations who can share resources with local communities. Those navigators should be deployed by September, and we want to make sure that we’re connecting our small businesses to the SBA and building that trust that’s needed. I also just recently launched the council of underserved communities, and we are hoping to build a strong group of experts who can make sure that we are designing and thinking of the future of entrepreneurship. And the changing face of entrepreneurship is we design our programs and implement into the future. So I’m excited about those opportunities to make sure that those connections are built.

Mark Collier:
Those sound like some very worthwhile programs I’m looking forward to seeing them roll out. So, given your professional background and history. Where do you see opportunities for small business growth in the future? Kind of as we kind of move past our, a pandemic and into our now post-pandemic economy, what do you see some of the growth areas and some of the opportunities for small businesses?

Isabella Casillas Guzman:
We definitely know that infrastructure, the investments that we’re going to make in not only, you know, not only the roads and bridges and, water pipes, et cetera, but also clean energy. And making sure that the U.S. is able to retain its leadership in that space. I see that there’s great opportunities for our small businesses to engage on that front. And so, you know, all of our manufacturers, all of our creators, our makers, you know, as well as all those innovative startups, and inventors out there, we want to make sure that they get the support they need so that they can be a part of that transformation.

Mark Collier:
That’s great. I know you’re kind of working on a tour around the country right now in various regions. Well, what have you seen going on in the Southeast here at, and I’ll let you been here. I know you’ve been here for a couple of days, any observations that you would care to share that, that you’ve seen down here in Atlanta and the Southeast?

Isabella Casillas Guzman:
Yes, it’s great. I think that you know, being the voice of America’s 30 million small businesses and startups means that getting out there and hearing directly from the businesses that we’re serving is, is really going to inform our work and make sure that we’re representing all views. And I think what’s so amazing about Atlanta. I’ve had an opportunity to visit a range of locations outside of the Atlanta area, as well as within, you know, Russell Innovation Center was an incredible stop yesterday, where I was able to see the future of Atlanta in the making. I think that the diversity in Atlanta is a strength. And I think it’s a great opportunity for us to partner in Georgia and in Atlanta, just to make sure that we are creating programs that have an impact on those future leaders in our small business community. You know, I know that there’s been great resilience, um, you know, great hope for the future as we look to build back better. We want people to advance and grow and thrive, and make sure that we have the tools to do that.

Mark Collier:
Isabelle Guzman SBA administrator. I want to thank you for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to come on the Playbook on ASBN and kind of share some of your experiences and some of your knowledge. And, I look forward to some of the programs and initiatives that you’re going to roll out that will strengthen all of America’s small businesses. Thank you once again.

Isabella Casillas Guzman:
Oh, it’s been my pleasure. Thank you for having me.


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