By Maria Contreras-Sweet and Marco Zappacosta
Remodeling a kitchen, tutoring a child, and photographing a wedding are hard jobs. Some people can do these tasks themselves, but millions of Americans every day turn to skilled professionals for projects like these.
America’s service professionals aren’t just passionate, skilled tradespeople; they are also small business owners. They are photographers, chefs, tutors, artisans and contractors, to name just a few. They work hard keep their businesses running – and it’s important these entrepreneurs understand the resources available to help them succeed.
That’s why a few months ago, Thumbtack and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) brought 60 small businesses to the White House – to hear about their challenges and help them find the support they need to grow.
Running a small business is hard work, and entrepreneurs face different obstacles as they grow. One major challenge for many entrepreneurs is to find capital to help them grow. The SBA partners with private lenders to approve commercial loans for America’s small business owners.
The SBA recently changed its loan process to make it easier and faster to get a small business loan by instituting:
- A new underwriting process to speed decisions on small-dollar loan;
- Predictive credit scoring that emphasizes business credit over personal credit, so personal debt incurred in the recession doesn’t automatically disqualify a borrower;
- LINC, an online matchmaking service for small business owners that can arrange a date with a lender;
- Automation of the SBA lending application this spring to give small businesses a single online portal for eligibility, underwriting, closing, loan modification, servicing, and purchase. (This means replacing the fax machine with an experience like TurboTax when applying for SBA capital.)
Starting a new business doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Complying with city, county, state and federal taxes can be daunting, not to mention navigating regulations and licensing requirements imposed by multiple levels of government. Entrepreneurs everywhere often find themselves spending as much time on paperwork as they do on their actual job.
That’s where the SBA and its network of partners come in. The SBA has district offices, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and SCORE executive mentors ready to offer advice and support. These centers help small business owners address the challenges that can sometimes make it exceedingly difficult to run a business, whether it’s the difficulty in regulatory compliance, hiring, or finding networking resources.
One of the best parts of bringing this terrific group of small businesses to Washington was meeting the entrepreneurs powering our economy. Last year’s job growth in absolute terms was America’s strongest since 2000 and the unemployment rate fell at its fastest pace in three decades. About 2 million of the 3 million jobs created in the U.S. last year were by small businesses.
We’re grateful for the work they do every day, and we’ll take every opportunity to support them.
Maria Contreras-Sweet is the Administrator of the SBA. Marco Zappacosta is the CEO and co-founder of Thumbtack
Photography by Paul Lara