Linda McMahon SBA

A Q&A with SBA’s Linda McMahon: Capital, optimism, opportunity

If you’re thinking of starting a new business, now’s the time to do it, says former U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon.

Before her resignation as SBA Administrator on April 12, McMahon visited the Midwest to speak at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in the Heartland—which took place March 18-19 at the Overland Park Convention Center—and to consult with local business owners through the SBA.

Following the GES event, McMahon toured a Kansas City, Mo., business, Creative Candles, and led a round table discussion at the SBA’s Kansas City District Office.

In an open discussion alongside Region 7 Administrator Tom Salisbury, local business owners voiced their thoughts about the pending U.S./Mexico/Canada trade agreement, digital and international trade, SBA resources, health care insurance premiums and immigration reform.

Following the round table, McMahon sat down with Thinking Bigger to talk about the promising state of entrepreneurship in Kansas and Missouri.

TB: What are some of the most promising strides you’ve seen for small businesses coming out of 2018?

LM: “I think if you really look at the business climate, it’s the level of optimism that small businesses have today (that’s most promising)—a level of optimism that hasn’t been seen for decades. Because we do now have the opportunity for businesses to grow through tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks, that’s exactly what I’m seeing everywhere I go.”

TB: What are some of the most promising growth areas in the Kansas/Missouri business community?

LM: “Right now, Kansas and Missouri’s numbers are around 3.2 percent unemployment—that’s lower than the national average. That’s a sign that businesses here are doing well. Now, that creates its own issues: small businesses competing in the same marketplace and a shortage of skilled workers, to name a few. But overall, low unemployment is a good problem to have.

“We’re also focused on that issue of finding and training a skilled workforce. We’re seeking opportunities for the private sector to work with the educational sector, apprenticeship and internship programs, and technical colleges.”

TB: Thinking Bigger recently talked to the SBA about its rural lending initiative, which allows for rural businesses to have higher access to capital and the global marketplace. What are your thoughts on that initiative?

LM: “If you create more small businesses that also have products they can export—which can help connect them to a global marketplace—that’s a win-win. Two-thirds of consumers exist outside a U.S. market, so we’re making sure to help small businesses look at every market.”

TB: What advice would you give local entrepreneurs in 2019?

LM: “If you’re going to start a business, now’s the time to do it. Optimism and consumer confidence are up, and the SBA provides opportunities to get government-backed loans. There’s more capital available everywhere, not  just through the SBA. With new tax laws and regulatory rollbacks, it’s a really good time to go into business if you’re passionate about what you want to do and you’re ready to make the sacrifice.

“Innovation is one of the greatest things we have in our country—we have one of the most entrepreneurial economies in the world. Entrepreneurs will take risks and pursue their dreams, and at the SBA we like to think we power the American dream.”