Her Small-Business Success Grew Into WWE. Now She Wants To Inspire Other Entrepreneurs

By Tim Sheehan The Fresno Bee

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As the new administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration in President Donald Trump's cabinet, Linda McMahon says, "I want to make sure that those who are starting businesses understand the reach and the power of SBA."

The Fresno Bee

Linda McMahon made her business reputation as a partner with her husband Vince building World Wrestling Entertainment from a basement-based enterprise into an entertainment empire.

Now, as administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration in President Donald Trump's cabinet, McMahon sees her job as not only advocating for entrepreneurs and business start-ups, but also bringing more intensive marketing to make sure business owners are aware of the range of services available from the SBA.

McMahon was the featured guest at a National Small Business Week event Friday at the Fresno Convention Center attended by several hundred business owners from throughout Central California.

Her visit was reportedly the first by a national SBA administrator -- a Cabinet-level post -- in 16 years.

McMahon said she and her husband, WWE chairman/CEO Vince McMahon, "didn't know anything about SBA" when they were growing their business from promoting live wrestling events in the Northeast to a nationwide presence. "I want to make sure that those who are starting businesses understand the reach and the power of SBA."

The agency has a range of services -- from government-guaranteed loans to business-planning counseling and mentoring programs to assistance on landing government contracts.

"I am your advocate and SBA is your advocate," she told the crowd, "and we want nothing more than to create an environment with policies and opportunities to have access to capital (and) to get the counseling you need" through SBA programs. "I can relate. I get it. I understand what can happen when, in spite of everything you've done, something goes wrong and you wind up having to declare bankruptcy."

In the afternoon, McMahon toured downtown businesses at Bitwise Industries and Heartbeat Boxing.

In an interview with The Bee, McMahon said she had not yet read through the heath care replacement bill that was narrowly passed Thursday by the House of Representatives to replace Obamacare. So she could not address what fallout the law may have on small businesses or their employees if it is ultimately approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Trump.

"But the goal of the bill, according to the president's wishes, was clearly to lower the cost of health care, and therefore small businesses would really be a great beneficiary of that," McMahon said. Owners of small businesses "want to provide health care for their employees," but are often priced out of the market by rising premiums or having to raise employee co-payments to a point where workers cannot afford the coverage.

"So they're looking for relief to be able to provide this as a benefit but not have it cost them an arm and a leg," she added.

McMahon said that two out of every three net new jobs in the U.S. are generated by small businesses, underscoring the importance of entrepreneurs to the national economy.

During a panel talk in the morning, Fred Ruiz, owner of Dinuba's Ruiz Foods, Innovative Commercial Flooring owner Vickie Goudreau of Fresno and Mark Jackson, owner of Blue Dolphin Design and Engineering in Madera, talked with McMahon about how SBA programs helped their businesses.

"I think it's really important that Administrator McMahon came to Fresno; it's an indication that this area is really important and that it's recognized that we're growing," said Jackson, whose company employs 10 people. "Being part of this is my chance to relate my story and for other people to understand how important SBA is in generating new businesses and new jobs."

Goudreau said she's taken advantage of counseling and mentorship from SBA as she and her husband Wayne grew their company to 11 permanent employees with more people hired as construction demands rise. Participating in the panel with McMahon, she said, "is an opportunity to be grateful and to encourage the SBA to look at Fresno and the Valley in a positive way." Goudreau urged the SBA "to encourage more business development and continue to do what they're doing, but perhaps even step it up more."

Ruiz recalled that 40 years ago, he and his father received a SBA loan "and it was very instrumental in helping our business continue on to be successful." Ruiz said the company wanted to expand but could not get a conventional loan from local banks. The SBA loan enabled Ruiz Foods to build its first large frozen-food production plant in Tulare, "and it was the beginning of where we are right now." Ruiz Foods now has about 3,500 employees.

It's these tales that McMahon wants to get out to would-be small business owners through more aggressive marketing. The SBA and WWE are similar -- not in terms of in-the-ring action, but in merging large-scale strategy with local customers.

"WWE was a global-reaching concept, but local in execution," McMahon said about putting on live performances in a traveling road show of wrestling entertainment. "SBA is the same concept. Nationally, the strategy and the vision and the programs from SBA are there, but it's our district offices that interact with our customers on a daily basis. That's where the success comes from."

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