June 23, 2021
Isabella Casillas Guzman
Administrator, Small Business Administration
Executive Vice President, Chief Policy Officer, and Head of Strategic Advocacy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The corporate world has been working toward greater equality of opportunity, but there’s still more equality to be gained for minority-owned businesses and underserved communities.
At its 2021 National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spoke with the Honorable Isabella Casillas Guzman, administrator of the Small Business Association, about ways to expand opportunity for minority small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Lessons About Underserved Communities Will Carry Into the Post-Pandemic World
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the existing problems minority businesses and underserved communities face. Casillas Guzman noted that women and underrepresented members of the community were harder hit by the pandemic than others.
“I really believe that one of the key deficits was recognizing that people couldn't connect to resources, especially underserved businesses,” she said.
“We do have to work harder to build that awareness,” she continued. “I do think that the silver lining was that there's an increased attention and awareness of small business issues and the SBA.”
Casillas Guzman also noted that her team is focused on thinking entrepreneurially to better understand these communities and how they can best assist them.
“We need to overcome those barriers and then be transformative about all of our programs to meet businesses … where they are,” she said.
Finding Ways to Build Lasting Trust Within Minority-Owned Small Businesses
Casillas Guzman stressed that in order to effectively assist minority businesses and underserved communities, there has to be a level of trust they can rely on.
“I do think that building that trust and making those connections and understanding where businesses are is so key,” she said.
“We need to increase our communication and our connections in order to better serve these small businesses and leverage wherever authentic and trusted relationships exist,” she continued.
Casillas Guzman explained this trust will be pivotal to lasting relationships and to close the opportunity gap.
“I think we need to continue to build on those relationships, leveraging whatever the federal resources are to help our private partners better serve small businesses and reach them,” explained Casillas Guzman.
Plans to Sustain Minority-Owned Small Businesses
With supply chain issues and challenges from the pandemic, Casillas Guzman emphasized that businesses, programs and the government need to be asking themselves how they can better support minority-owned small businesses in the future.
“We're talking with partners extensively and learning what industry impacts there are [and] what businesses think they need to rebuild over the next ... six months and beyond,” she said.
Casillas Guzman cited that many minority-owned small businesses have lack of access to capital, which can limit their growth.
“I think we need to get creative across our capital programs,” she said. “When it comes to capital, I'm trying to put everything on the table.”
“We want to drive more early-stage equity events,” Casillas Guzman continued. “It's not just about loans ... As we spur innovation, we know that heavy job creation is within those science- and technology-based firms that have high growth rates.”
“We definitely need to make sure that we're supporting the contracting, e-commerce and other market solutions to drive our businesses,” she said.
From the Series