SBA's Maria Contreras-Sweet Uses Her Experiences to Help To Other Business Owners


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Maria Contreras-Sweet, head of the Small Business Administration for the Obama administration, speaks at the Ain’t She Sweet Cafe in Chicago. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Blue Sky / Jan. 19, 2015)
Maria Contreras-Sweet’s best sounding board throughout her career has been her “kitchen cabinet.” During weeknight dinners or Sunday brunches after church, she would tell her husband and three children about her workday, whether it involved meeting with a consulting client or working to start a community bank.
“I wanted my family to feel that the entrepreneurial road I was [going] down was something the family was doing, so we did it together,” she says.
Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet visited Chicago Monday to announce $750,000 in funding for microloans to the Chicago Neighborhoods Initiative and said she wants to change SBA’s image so that tech founders turn to the federal government…

In early 2014, Contreras-Sweet convened her kitchen cabinet after President Barack Obama chose her to join his own Cabinet as head of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The family discussed the effects of her moving to Washington from Los Angeles, where they lived and worked at the time. “We thought that the impact she could have as administrator of the SBA was worth making that sacrifice,” says her son Rafael Contreras-Sweet, a lawyer in Los Angeles.
Almost a year into the position, Contreras-Sweet is working to transform the SBA from a bureaucratic agency criticized for confusing loan programs into a modern, nimble resource for American entrepreneurs. To her, SBA stands for “smart, bold, accessible,” and she’s creating initiatives to help the agency live up to that catchphrase, with technology at the forefront.
The administrator brings many perspectives to her job: immigrant, three-time entrepreneur, government official, corporate vice president, nonprofit founder, wife and mother.

Solving entrepreneurial challenges
Since she took office at the SBA in April 2014, Contreras-Sweet has focused on…..
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