Isabel Guzman said LGBTQ-owned businesses are among her agency’s priorities
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
To celebrate National Small Business Week from May 1-7, Isabel Guzman, administrator of the Small Business Administration, wanted to make sure LGBTQ business owners know they are eligible for loans and programs helping underserved communities.
Guzman said she wanted to make sure LGBT-owned businesses were not left behind. Bringing economic empowerment to the LGBTQ community is one of her goals as the SBA’s 27th administrator.
Guzman was sworn in more than a year ago and has been a lifelong proponent of small business, she said. In her position, she represents 32.5 million small businesses across the U.S. and is “committed to helping small business owners and entrepreneurs start, grow and be resilient.”
Before she was appointed to serve in the Biden administration, Guzman was director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration.
During the Obama administration, she was deputy chief of staff and senior advisor for the SBA, where she oversaw policy and new program implementation.
Prior to that, Guzman was a small business owner herself.
To strengthen ties between the SBA and LGBTQ-owned businesses, the agency has created a number of strategic ties to local organizations, including one with the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, which works together with the local North Texas LGBT Chamber.
The SBA recommends businesses get certified as LGBTQ-owned through a program offered by the North Texas LGBT Chamber or, for businesses elsewhere, through the national chamber.
Guzman defined businesses eligible for SBA assistance as companies with 500 or fewer employees.
Ahmad Goree is lead economic development specialist and public information officer for the Dallas SBA office. He said $1.8 billion in loans went through his office for this geographic area, ranking it fourth out of 68 offices nationwide — ahead of New York, Houston and Chicago.
Goree said there are five resource partner programs that he encourages businesses interested in SBA assistance to access. Small Business Development Centers are connected to Dallas College and provide counseling for businesses looking for start-up assistance or expansion funds. SCORE has offices in Dallas and Fort Worth and provides mentors to help start or grow a business.
The Veteran’s Business Outreach Center at UT Arlington and the Women’s Business Center provide start-up and expansion counseling to women-owned or veteran-owned businesses.
A newer community navigator is associated with the American Rescue Plan to let businesses know about new programs that have become available as a response to the pandemic. Navigators are particularly focused on business owners from communities that have trust issues as well as those who speak languages other than English.
“Go to one of these resources first,” Goree advised. He said these consultant services are free, rather than the $600 per hour someone would charge for these valuable services.
And, he advised, before applying for an SBA loan, have a business plan in place. That’s something a community mentor can help write or improve.
Have up-to-date financials and tax information. Make a list of any collateral available to back a loan and work with a counselor to rectify any problems on personal and business credit reports.
When your business is ready to apply for a loan, go to the SBA website where there is a matching service to help find the best lenders to apply with.
Goree explained the match feature finds lenders that work with certain types of businesses.
“Some lenders don’t work with restaurants, for example,” he said. Other considerations are the size of the business and the size of the loan requested. Some lenders only work within a certain geographic area, which is a plus for Dallas businesses. Goree stressed that Dallas is hot right now.
And get LGBTQ-certification. The SBA is interested in LGBTQ-owned businesses succeed.