|Single mother Diana Nelson wanted to run a business that would let her spend more time with her two sons. Her 1998 SMA loan helped her buy Kazoo & Co., a toy store in Cherry Creek North. 'If it wasn't for the SBA,' she says, 'I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now.'|
The agency that's helped neighborhood businesses and corporate titans get started turns 50 this week.
The U.S. Small Business Administration will commemorate its golden anniversary on Wednesday. Even as they celebrate, SBA officials are
gearing up for the future and looking for ways to do more with less.
"We're helping more business people with less resources, and we're doing it with a smaller staff," said Patricia Barela Rivera, the SBA's
Colorado district director.
In 10 years, the SBA has seen its staff trimmed by half, and the Colorado office this year is working with an operating budget that's 45
percent lower than it was a year ago. At the same time, the Colorado office recently completed its biggest year for lending and expects
to surpass that this year.
The Colorado office provided 1,345 loan guarantees valued at $455 million in fiscal 2002.
Tamela Lee, director of Denver's Small Business Development Center and small-business programs for the Denver Metro Chamber of
Commerce, said the agency is the top economic engine fueling small-business growth in the state.
Since it was established, the SBA has approved 27,115 direct or guaranteed loans valued at $4.6 billion in Colorado. The agency has
approved some 5,000 loans worth $842 million in Denver County alone.
Colorado companies that have received SBA assistance include Alvarado Construction, the Tattered Cover, Scotts Liquid Gold, New
Belgium Brewing Co. and Quizno's.
Quizno's founder Jimmy Lambatos opened the sandwich shop's first store using an SBA loan. The Denver-based company, which has
grown to 2,300 stores, now encourages its franchisees to use SBA financing to get started.
"A lot of our franchisees have not owned a business before, so they find it tough to get a bank loan," said Quizno's spokeswoman Stacie
Lange. "We encourage them to apply for SBA-backed loans."
The SBA is best-known for backing loans to small businesses, allowing them to secure capital when banks might otherwise be leery of
lending to unproven enterprises. The SBA has also established a network of training and counseling services to help businesses get
started and expand.
The SBA's Service Corps of Retired Executives pairs retired business leaders with budding entrepreneurs to help them navigate the
The agency also helps fund a statewide network of 17 small-business development centers where entrepreneurs can get information
about starting and growing their businesses.
SBA leaders have also focused on technology, and the agency now offers many of its services online.
"Our focus has been outreach and marketing to really capture more businesses, so they learn more about our products and services,"
For some business owners, the financial guarantee provided by the agency remains its biggest asset.
Diana Nelson applied for an SBA-guaranteed loan in 1998 when she purchased Kazoo & Co., a popular Cherry Creek North toy store. The
store has recently expanded to become an Internet and catalog vendor as well.
"If it wasn't for the SBA, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now," said Nelson, a single mother who decided owning a business was the
best way to earn a living and spend time with her two sons. "They customize their programs and work with your needs."