SBA’s Linda McMahon on Breaking Down Barriers to Success


For some small business owners, 2018 has been a good, if not great, year. They’re optimistic about their future, and the U.S. economy as well. Other entrepreneurs, however, aren’t feeling quite so positive. They’re worried about rising interest rates, soaring healthcare costs, and they’re uncertain about consumer spending.

According to Linda McMahon, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and a successful entrepreneur (she’s the co-founder of  WWE—World Wrestling Entertainment), “There’s a feeling of optimism, confidence and enthusiasm among small business owners.”

As part of our interview series on The State of Small Business Lending, we caught up with  McMahon as she toured the Santa Ana (CA) district, her 49th visit to an SBA district office. McMahon has vowed to visit all 68 SBA district offices to help raise awareness of the SBA and make sure it’s “not the best kept secret in the country.”

Linda McMahon, Administrator, SBA

Fundbox: What’s the state of the American small business economy these days?

LM: Small business owners are excited about the tax cuts, rollback of regulations and the new association health plans. They can form or join associations and buy insurance in the open marketplace. The rule is effective now, but there’ll be more access September 1st. [Learn more about association health plans here.]

What’s the lending environment for small businesses right now?

LM: With the rollback of Dodd-Frank and less regulation, the SBA, conventional lending banks, especially community banks and credit unions can go back to the kind of lending they used to do. And the SBA is guaranteeing more loans.

The SBA has always lead the way in democratizing access to credit, especially for underserved audiences like women and minority entrepreneurs and business owners. You, personally, have long been involved with helping women entrepreneurs. (Note: McMahon co-founded Women’s Leadership Live in 2016.) What are some of the challenges in trying to level the playing field for fair and equal access to credit?

LM: There are many women’s organizations offering support to women, to help them be more confident. And there are now 109 Women’s Business Centers (WBC) across the country, where women can get expert advice from women—and men—about what they need to do. Some of the greatest help women can get is to help them develop a good pitch.

SCORE, the SBDCs (Small Business Development Centers), the SBA and the WBCs are here to help women walk through the paces, and to advocate for them. And the SBIC [Small Business Investment Company, which is licensed by the SBA to invest in small businesses] is helping women get access to venture capital.

Do you believe that the current processes for assessing creditworthiness are becoming more inclusive? If not, what do we need to do in order to ensure that every small business owner has equal and fair access? What do we need to do in order to ensure that every small business owner has equal and fair access?

LM: We need to continue to break down barriers. Women are resilient and are starting more businesses. We need to help women get more loans and seed capital.

About Linda McMahon:

Linda McMahon is an advocate for America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs as Administrator of the U.S Small Business Administration. Previously, she co-founded and served as Chief Executive Officer for WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), during which time the organization grew from a 13-person business to a global enterprise. In 2015, she co-founded Women’s Leadership LIVE, an organization that was dedicated to using live events and webinars to educate and inspire women to launch and grow their businesses.

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