Q&A With SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet

By Hanah Cho
The Dallas Morning News.

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet has a new interpretation of the acronym for the federal agency tasked with supporting U.S. small businesses: Smart, Bold and Accessible.

Contreras-Sweet was sworn in as the new head of the Small Business Administration in April. The former banker has made it a priority to modernize the agency and make resources such as access to capital more obtainable for entrepreneurs.

“What we’re trying to do at the SBA is help America preserve the middle class and social mobility,” Contreras-Sweet said.

Contreras-Sweet visited the Dallas region recently to meet with local SBA employees as well as small businesses in the area.

She gave the keynote speech at the America’s Small Business Development Center Network’s national conference in Grapevine last week. Contreras-Sweet spoke with The Dallas Morning News about the lending environment, her priorities and challenges facing small business owners.

Here’s an edited excerpt:

Question: What are the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs and small businesses?

A: What’s taking place is that technology is changing the way we think about entrepreneurs. That’s why the [Small Business Development] counseling centers become invaluable, because we have to consider the way the technology changes the way we do business.

We have to think about the way we keep business nimble and responsive to the way consumers think about things: how they position themselves and how they deliver their products.

Question: Then what is the role of the SBA?

A: I reframed the SBA’s work. I call the SBA smart, bold and accessible, and so the new frame for the agency is the modernization that you and I just outlined.

It’s important for the SBA to understand the technological evolution. It’s about relearning. And how do we work with our strategic partners. And how do we counsel the small business.

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