In September 2012, the two organizations launched the pilot program to expand the SBA’s outreach efforts within local chambers and to connect Hispanic entrepreneurs with lenders and business counselors. The initiative fills the need for a program that specifically targets Hispanics, who aren’t always comfortable seeking loans, says Natalia Olson-Urtecho, SBA regional administrator for the mid-Atlantic region.
“We Hispanic entrepreneurs prefer to fund our ventures ourselves and within our own family,” says Olson-Urtecho, who is also an entrepreneur. “We need to remove the stigma [of seeking financial help through loans] and communicate the message that these programs are designed to help small businesses flourish.”
Business owners can choose from a variety of SBA loan programs, including general small business, disaster, microloans, real estate and equipment. Along with loan help, the pilot program offers educational programs, resources and events about available SBA programs. So far, about 600 business owners have attended the events.
The SBA also offers webinars and government contracting workshops a few times per month at its local offices on topics including business plan creation and employee management.
Signing up for the pilot program is one of the best business decisions Manuel Trujillo says he’s made. Trujillo is president and CEO of Swain Techs, which provides technology services in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Trujillo contacted the SBA for help with earning the 8(a) certification as a minority-owned business.
The SBA’s 8(a) Business Development Program offers assistance to firms that are at least 51 percent owned and controlled by minorities or groups facing social or economic disadvantages. It helps aspiring entrepreneurs gain a foothold in government contracting.
With the 8(a) certification, Swain Techs can provide strategic technology solutions in managed technology, cybersecurity and engineering to the federal government. Since registering with the SBA, Swain Techs won three prime government contracts. The company doubled revenue in 2012 and is close to doubling revenue this year, Trujillo says.
“The SBA helped us refine our strategy,” he says. “Business owners must understand that certification is the first step. Contracts won’t automatically come to your company; you have to go out and chase them.”