Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Castillo Guzman visited Green Bay on Wednesday, hearing from several Latino-owned businesses as part of the Biden Administration’s “Latino Prosperity Tour.”
“All the key components are here for successful entrepreneurship,” Guzman said.
Guzman started the day with a tour of The Cannery, a three-month-old food service business incubator where five culinary startups share a kitchen and dining space. She then visited Brow Beauty Bar to meet owner Maricela Vera, who received an SBA loan to stay afloat during the pandemic, and RG Roofing, which used an SBA loan to buy their headquarters building.
“Green Bay is just an example of how Latino businesses are starting up across the country. It’s not just in the Southwest,” Guzman said. “I think that the challenges that small businesses face every day are universal in terms of the workforce challenges, as well as just navigating resources. I would say that we’ve tried to ensure that we’re investing in networks so that businesses can easily connect to services. So to see that Chamber and its incubator program and the Cannery in that incubator program, connecting entrepreneurs to small business resources gives me a lot of hope for the community here.”
An SBA spokesperson said in an email to Blueprint365 that the number of new Latino-owned businesses is growing 20 percent faster than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. In fiscal year 2023, the number of loans to Latino-owned small businesses has doubled compared to 2020, and total loan dollars are up over 80% compared to 2020, the SBA said. Further, the Latino share of the SBA’s lending portfolio has risen to 12.2% in fiscal year 2023, up from 7.8% in fiscal year 2020.
“I am living the American dream,” said Vera, who opened Brow Beauty Bar in 2019 after working 22 years in the beauty industry in Green Bay. “I decided to take that leap and open up my own business and thanks to my supporters, my family and of course, during the pandemic, thanks to the SBA loan that helped tremendously during that shutdown time.”
Maria Padilla, the diverse small business manager at the Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce, said Guzman’s decision to visit Green Bay is “a really awesome opportunity for us.”
The visit “really shows that things are really happening in Green Bay for entrepreneurs, and our Latino community and other racial communities,” Padilla said. “Having the support of the SBA, and them reaching out to us and coming to meet our business owners is just such a big opportunity for them and us as well to get the word out there about the work that we’re doing.”