National Small Business Week Begins Today

National Small Business Week Begins Today

By Maria Contreras-Sweet

Every year since 1963, the President has signed a proclamation declaring National Small Business Week. Today, at the eMerge Conference in the melting pot of Miami, I kicked off the week by reminding America’s entrepreneurs to “dream big, start small.”

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) helps entrepreneurs from Main Street to Silicon Valley to pursue big dreams and create jobs – one small, strategic step at a time. We have a strong track record. SBA financing buoyed some of America’s most successful companies when they were small, including Apple, Fed Ex, Nike, American Online, Intel, Ben and Jerry’s, Tesla, Costco, I-Robot, Yankee Candles, Quiznos, Outback Steakhouse and Under Armour.

These are times of job growth and GDP growth in America, thanks to our small business sector. We’ve added more than 12 million jobs over 61 straight months of job gains, the longest streak on record. Our unemployment rate has fallen to 5.5 percent – down from 10 percent in October 2009. As a nation, we’re less reliant on foreign oil than we have been in nearly three decades. Rising home prices have helped lift nearly 4 million households out of negative equity and back above water. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, health care prices are growing at their slowest rate in a half-century.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen credits small businesses for powering our recovery. They create nearly two out of three net, new private sector jobs and employ half of the U.S. workforce. Small businesses are our engines of economic growth, and SBA has many free resources to help entrepreneurs fuel the tank:

LINC: SBA’s online matchmaking service helps entrepreneurs get a date with a lender. Eighty percent of small business loan applications are rejected, according to some industry estimates, and more applications than that are never filed because of the difficulty of getting an appointment with a loan officer. We’re harnessing the power of technology so all you have to do is fill out a short form with your small business loan request and answer 20 questions, and interested lenders will contact you within 48 hours.

Free Business Counseling: Our skilled business counselors and executive mentors provide free consultation and advice to entrepreneurs across the country – both online and in person. We have tailored services to help veterans, women, Native Americans, Millennials and exporters.

Win a Contract: SBA levels the playing field by helping small businesses capture new revenue and new customers by winning government contracts, joining corporate supply chains, and exporting beyond our borders.

Innovation funding: The Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) awards $2.5 billion dollars in research grants to our small innovators each year. The Mars rover Curiosity is exploring the planet’s surface with systems designed by five different SBIR recipients. The fingerprint scanning technology you use to open your I-phone and 70 percent of the microprocessors inside were funded through SBIR research. Eleven different federal agencies participate in this program.

New Spanish-language website: More Hispanics are starting businesses than any other immigrant group in America. Hispanic entrepreneurs contribute nearly half a trillion dollars to the nation’s economy in each year. Today, SBA is rolling out our new Spanish-language website. We’ve translated more than 2,000 pages of content. Now, more small businesses owners can get information about how to write a business plan, get a loan, or qualify for a contract.

SBA will be live streaming events every day during National Small Business Week focused on innovation, exporting, access to capital, and veterans and women’s entrepreneurship. We hope you’ll join the conversation at #DreamSmallBiz

You don’t have to be a small business owner to take part in National Small Business Week. Sunday is Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is coming up, and we’re in the midst of graduation season. So whether you’re shopping for Moms, Dads or grads, make sure you shop small, and support the local small businesses that have helped bring our economy back.

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet started three small businesses in Los Angeles before joining President Obama’s cabinet in April 2014.

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