Maria Contreras Sweet small business week

SBA corner: Maria Contreras-Sweet at NCLR

Maria_Contreras_Sweet_portraitExcerpts of the Speech at the National Council of La Raza Annual Convention

(Monday, July 21, 2014 in Los Angeles)

“Thanks to NCLR, and to all of you, for your support through my confirmation process, so I can bring the perspective of the Latina entrepreneur to the President’s cabinet. There’s no substitute for electing leaders who’ve lived our struggles and faced our same challenges of working while raising a family. There’s no substitute for electing a President who was still paying off his school loans just four years before he became the leader of the free world.

As many of you know, I came to this country at the age of 5, not speaking a word of English. I’ve been blessed to start three businesses, including California’s first Latino-owned business bank in 35 years. I take the lessons of my life with me to work every day to help others achieve their dreams…”

“…This month, America celebrates a special anniversary – the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Right Act. It was in the crucible of the civil rights movement of the 1960s that La Raza was forged. But after the Civil Right Act passed, Dr. King posed a question that still rings true today. He asked: “What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t have enough money to buy a hamburger?”

Dr. King understood that our civil rights needed to be coupled with market rights and economic empowerment. Today, the Hispanic employment rate is on the rise, but we’re still not back to the pre-recession rate of 64 percent. And many families are still struggling to rebuild after the collapse of the housing market, which caused a 58 percent decline in median household wealth among Latinos. Entrepreneurship must be central to our strategy to employ our neighbors and allow Latino families to once again accumulate savings.

We also must be able to secure a great education, quality jobs, affordable housing, safe streets, and accessible health care. Today’s NCLR poll revealed that more than 60 percent of Hispanics today believe that starting a business is an integral part of the American Dream. Hispanics don’t just believe it. We’re proving it.

Hispanics are starting businesses at 3 times the national average. Immigrant-owned firms today employ 1 in 10 U.S. workers. Immigrants are also our innovators and nearly three times more likely to file for patents. There are 3.2 million Latino-owned businesses in America today, and they’re pumping nearly 500 billion dollars into our economy every year.

We hear a lot about the developing BRIC countries and their growing power. Many of the corporations represented here today have aggressive Our economy won't workstrategies to expand markets in Brazil, India and China. But consider this: Hispanic purchasing power in America is expected to top $1.5 trillion by next year. The American Hispanic market, if it were its own country, would be the 11th largest economy in the world – close to Mexico and larger than Korea and Spain.

Soon, Hispanics will have more per capita purchasing power than the BRIC countries. I’m determined to nurture and support Latino entrepreneurs who’ve led this recovery and propelled our rise. Last year, SBA broke our record for lending to Hispanic-owned businesses. We supported loans totaling more than $1.3 billion. Since President Obama took office, SBA lending to Hispanic entrepreneurs has increased by 133 percent. Before President Obama took office, 14 percent of SBA microloans went to Hispanic-owned businesses. But last year, Hispanic entrepreneurs received 43 percent of SBA microloans.

At the SBA, we [are] not just providing loans, we’re providing value-add counseling. I’ve made inclusivity a fundamental theme of my administration, implementing new programs to make it easier for Hispanic businesses to earn government contracts, corporate contracts, and international export contracts. And SBA’s consulting network has trained and counseled more than 300,000 Hispanic entrepreneurs since 2011.

Now, I just reached my 100-day milestone at SBA. Already, I’ve made some major changes to fuel even more economic progress. I’ve revamped our underwriting rules to make it easier for entrepreneurs to get an SBA business loan. And I’ve instituted new programs to help veterans…”

“… So my only request for you today is a simple one: Remember that you have a partner in the SBA. I want SBA to stand for Smart… Bold… Accessible. We are pressing forward to make the SBA modern through smart systems, helping small business make bold moves into new markets with an inclusive view. We’re seasoned, committed, free business consultants who are ready to serve you every day through our Veterans Business Outreach Centers, Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers and SCORE volunteers.

It’s our job, our mission, and our passion to help aspiring entrepreneurs succeed. If we work together, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish. We are bound only by our own imagination and efforts. Brothers and sisters: We can advance civil rights and market rights if we vote at the ballot box and at the local mall for those businesses that support our local community.

Let’s make small business a big deal. The future is ours to claim, so let’s claim it. That way, we won’t just have that hamburger at the lunch counter. We will own the restaurant! God bless you, God bless NCLR, and God bless the United States of America.”

(For the complete version, click here.)

About Susana G Baumann

Award-winning journalist, author, multicultural expert, public speaker, small business advocate and the Editor-in-Chief of LatinasinBusiness.us. Susana is an Argentinean immigrant who started her own small business over 20 years ago. Now, through her new digital platform and social media channels, she advocates for the economic empowerment of Latinas in the United States.
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  1. […] is working with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to solve this hurdle. “I met with Maria Contreras-Sweet, another powerful Latina who wants to give money to women entrepreneurs, and we will help them […]

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