It is often called a “best kept secret” for entrepreneurs. In fact, you may be amazed at how the U.S. Small Business Administration helps entrepreneurs — whether you are simply in the planning stages, have started a business as a solopreneur or own a fifth-generation firm with up to 500 employees.
Although I had personally interacted with the SBA as an entrepreneur—particularly in seeking a mentor through their free Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) program when I started my first business—frankly I was not aware of the depth and breadth of services the SBA offers.
So I was very excited when Christopher Hatch, the regional communications director for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Mid-Atlantic Region, reached out to me recently about doing an interview. I was honored to get the chance to speak with Natalia Olson-Urtecho, a decorated administrator as well as a highly successful entrepreneur herself. This is one of the best interviews I have had on the Go For Launch podcast, and I hope many entrepreneurs will get value from our conversation!
Read more below about the topics we discussed.
About Natalia Olson-Urtecho
Natalia Olson-Urtecho is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, one of 10 Regions of the SBA in the U.S.
Appointed in 2012 by President Obama, she is responsible for delivery and management of small business programs, financial assistance and business development initiatives for a population of nearly 30 million people in seven district offices throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Washington, D.C. She oversees more than 180 SBA offices, SCORE chapters, Business Development Centers and other resources while managing a field staff of more than 100 loan, business, community outreach and support personnel. She works with local lenders and successful firms across the region, overseeing more than $34.2 billion in federal government contracts for goods and services purchased from local entrepreneurs.
Prior to joining the SBA, Natalia was founder, president and CEO of EG, a company dedicated to helping public and private entities become more profitable through environmentally friendly and socially responsible planning and strategies. Before founding EG, Olson-Urtecho was a transportation and land use planner at the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and was director of global initiatives at H2L2, an architectural and planning firm with projects in 42 countries.
She has more than 18 years of experience working with international, regional and local entities in the mid-Atlantic region and abroad in Latin America, Central Europe and Asia. While at the U.S. Department of State, Natalia worked in Budapest, Hungary, on NATO accession, economic and political policies, environmental issues, science and technology property rights, infrastructure development and served as chief of protocol.
She was recently recognized as a “Latina Powerhouse” by the Maryland Hispanic Business Conference, was named one of Delaware Valley’s Most Influential Latinos in 2014, and received the Philadelphia Business Journal’s 2010 Minority Business Leader Award. She has lived in seven countries and speaks Spanish, French and Portuguese.
Topics We Discuss About the SBA
- In our discussion, I learned that many SBA leaders were successful entrepreneurs before the joined the Administration
- There are more than 28 million small businesses and counting in the United States
- These represent 50% of all U.S. businesses
- Two out of three people work for a small business in the United States
- There has been huge entrepreneurial growth in the past few years (since the Great Recession)
- The SBA has enjoyed five years of record lending to small businesses — the most in their 60+ years in existence; in fact, Congress passed a bill in just two days to raise the amount of money available through SBA loans
- Lots of large businesses and even entire industries/regions (e.g., Silicon Valley) get help from the SBA in their early stages
- In the U.S., small businesses are classified as under 500 employees and under $30 million in revenue
- The SBA is the largest backer or guarantor of financing/loans to small businesses in the United States
- Loans range from $50,000 or less (through their Microlender program) up to $5 million, all backed by the government
- Among their many programs for entrepreneurs are the following programs and services:
- Business guidance and business planning — You can take advantage of this even if you just have a business idea and need their advice (and all information is kept 100% confidential)
- Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) — Get from mentoring from retired executive around the country
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) — These research centers, typically housed in universities or in regional department of economic development, offer a range of consulting and advisories services, like MBA students who can help businesses with free marketing studies or data analysis
- U.S. Centers for Export Assistance — According to Natalia, 95% of consumers live outside the U.S. and there are amazing opportunities for many entrepreneurs to export their products overseas
- Women Business Centers — as the name implies, these are aimed at helping female entrepreneurs, but Natalia told me the secret that you don’t have to be a woman to get help there!
- Veterans programs — The SBA is very actively involved in helping military veterans start and grow businesses
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