RALEIGH – U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabella Guzman was “really impressed” to learn about entrepreneurship growth in Raleigh, she shared in an exclusive interview with WRAL TechWire. on Friday.

Guzman visited Raleigh as part of her nine-stop bus tour for National Small Business Week. Her stop in Raleigh on Friday morning included a tour of the NC Rural Center and was attended by US Congresswoman Deborah Ross and NC Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman, left, talks with WRAL TechWire’s Sarah Glova during a visit to Raleigh on Friday.

Speaking with WRAL Techwire from her tour bus after the event,  Guzman discussed what she called “pretty incredible” growth rates of entrepreneurship in North Carolina. According to the Secretary of State’s office, roughly 178,300 new businesses were created across NC in 2021, a 40% jump from 2020, which was also a record-setting year. 

“That’s really remarkable, and it’s reflective of the great support that you have for small businesses and innovative startups,” said Guzman. 

Guzman pointed out that the Triangle region’s research institutions and accelerator programs were “nodes of entrepreneurship” that strengthen innovation and help small firms to commercialize. 

She also specifically referenced the First Flight Venture Center and said she was “really proud” of the work being done at First Flight. 

First Flight has been awarded grants through the SBA’s Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program multiple years in a row and was one of three Triangle-area organizations to be awarded $50K through the SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition (GAFC) in 2021. This year, First Flight is using the grant funding to create 25 scholarships to help female entrepreneurs and product manufacturing startups participate in First Flight’s Propeller Program.

Inflation, supply chain, and hiring concerns are top of mind for small business owners

But not everything is rosy in the economy.

“We always focus on the top issues that small businesses face,” Guzman explained. “It still is always access to capital, healthcare issues, employment issues, but in particular right now, obviously, it’s the tight labor market, inflationary pressures, and supply chain.”

According to a recent survey from Goldman Sachs, of over 1,000 small business owners surveyed, 91 percent said that workforce, inflation, and supply-chain issues are the economic trends having the greatest negative impact on their small businesses

“I would just say that what I also know with entrepreneurs is that they’re a part of the solution as well,” said Guzman, “because the President wants to focus on expanding the productive capacity of our nation. That means making more and that’s what small businesses do.”

She also referenced two specific initiatives from the SBA, one to transform the SBA’s capital programs so that they’re more affordable, especially for smaller-dollar lenders and early-stage capital. She also mentioned SBA initiatives that are focused on making SBA programs simpler to use for both vendors and borrowers. 

“We want to make sure that we can help [small businesses] continue to power the domestic supply chains and produce more here in the US,” said Administrator Guzman.

Bus Tour for National Small Business Week 2022

Guzman’s stop in Raleigh was a part of the “Building a Better America Through Entrepreneurship” bus tour, which was launched to coincide with National Small Business Week 2022.

The SBA has celebrated National Small Business Week for over 50 years. This year’s theme, according to Administrator Guzman, is a reflection of how entrepreneurship has helped to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. 

“But to come out of that and look towards the future and see such great hope with entrepreneurship, that’s really what’s remarkable about this National Small Business Week,” said Administrator Guzman, “and why the President declared a National Small Business Week with the theme of ‘Building a Better America Through Entrepreneurship’, which is, which is really what’s been happening.”

Administrator Guzman said that small businesses “underpin that strong economic growth and job creation” that is needed for economic recovery. 

“And so we need to celebrate them, remind communities how important it is that we support our small businesses in multiple ways, through our pocketbooks and through social media, because now they’ve had to adopt technology at such high rates,” said Administrator Guzman. “It is important for us to, of course, celebrate small businesses every day.”

She said the focus of the bus tour was “expanding the reach and the awareness of the SBA.”

To learn more about SBA programs for small business owners, visit sba.gov.