February 14 celebrates a day of love and commitment. It’s not only Valentine’s Day – it marks the beginning of my second year leading the SBA. And I feel more committed than ever to doing what I love – helping America’s 30 million small businesses succeed.
Small businesses are the heart of our communities. They not only create two out of every three net new jobs in the private sector, more than half our workforce either works for or owns a small business. They pump vitality into our neighborhoods, making them vibrant places to live and work and raise our families.
Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to experience this vitality firsthand. I have met with more than 500 small business owners in 31 states. I have visited their factories, offices, restaurants and shops and listened to their concerns during roundtable discussions. While much of the conversations focused on tax reform and regulatory reform and how we at the SBA can best advocate for them in Washington, it was clear from our interaction that all of these entrepreneurs truly love what they do. And their commitment to their businesses isn’t just about creating profit, it’s about creating communities.
One of the first small businesses I visited is a perfect illustration of this – and not just because its name fits the Valentine’s Day theme! During National Small Business Week 2017, I toured Heartbeat Boxing in Fresno, California. Owners Lourdes and Gilbert Ruiz started the business in 2015 with the help of an SBA-guaranteed loan that helped them renovate an old warehouse in an industrial part of town. It offers fitness programs, personal training and nutrition services to clients seeking to lose weight and build strength. And the business is also committed to a stronger community. It has taught free, weekly self-defense classes to more than 1,000 women in honor of Gilbert’s younger sister, Ruby, who was lost to domestic violence. “Ruby’s Ring” is driven by passion, not profit – a way to give back to the community that has supported him as he turned his vision into a reality.
Entrepreneurs I meet with tell me they’re feeling heartened by the strong economy and the President’s commitment to supporting small businesses. Such optimism gives them more confidence to take a risk. We are seeing this at the SBA. Capital is the lifeblood of any small business, and right now demand for the SBA’s signature 7(a) loans is high – lending the first fiscal quarter of this year is up 20% over the same period last year.
This Valentine’s Day, I honor all the entrepreneurs who put their hearts and souls into their small businesses. My goal as I embark on my second year is to continue promoting the services the SBA provides, serving even more of our nation’s small businesses. We want more entrepreneurs to think of the SBA as the go-to resource for counseling and funding opportunities, no matter what stage of the lifecycle their business is in. Together with our lending partners and resource partners in communities across America, we can continue to help drive our economy.