Business Briefing: Biden administration promotes programs for LGBTQ small biz owners

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday July 10, 2024
Share this Post:
U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman toured Big Gay Smiles, a gay-owned dental practice in Washington, D.C., as part of her Pride Month outreach. Photo: From Guzman's X feed<br><br><br><br><br>
U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman toured Big Gay Smiles, a gay-owned dental practice in Washington, D.C., as part of her Pride Month outreach. Photo: From Guzman's X feed

Throughout Pride Month, Small Business Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman visited LGBTQ-owned businesses to promote the various programs her federal agency has to support proprietors of small-sized companies. In early June, she stopped by Big Gay Smiles, a gay-owned Washington, D.C. dentistry providing care to the local LGBTQ community.

A few days later Guzman was in Chicago at lesbian-owned Christy Webber Landscapes. The nearly 40-year-old business has worked on the city's historic Soldier Field sports stadium and other major projects.

"It is why I walk like I am carrying a wheelbarrow," joked Webber in a brief clip of her visit with Guzman posted on the administrator's Instagram page.

She praised the assistance she has received during her time in the landscaping field from the Small Business Administration. In particular, Webber noted what a lifeline it had been for her business to receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan from the agency during the onset of the COVID pandemic.

"I couldn't have done what I have done here on the Westside without the SBA to back up the loans. It has been great," said Webber.

Speaking by phone with the Bay Area Reporter in early June, Guzman noted there was no better time for her to highlight LGBTQ small businesses than during Pride Month.

"The SBA wants to make sure they are getting the support they need. This is a great month to celebrate them and the impact they have," Guzman said.

She explained that her focus is carrying out President Joe Biden's belief that "every idea" can become a successful business given the right opportunities and development support.

"We at the SBA focus on the American dream and business ownership," said Guzman, the 27th administrator of her agency who had been its deputy chief of staff in the Obama administration.

She was leading the California Office of the Small Business Advocate when Biden nominated her in early 2021 to the cabinet post in his administration. Since then, Guzman has made it a priority to promote the SBA's loans and other support programs to LGBTQ entrepreneurs. In particular, it has a Network for LGBTQ+ Businesses and a dedicated webpage for such enterprises where they can access SBA programs.

The network is also a way for the SBA "to bring focus on economic empowerment in the LGBTQ+ business community." The National LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce has estimated that LGBTQ-owned businesses contribute nearly $2 trillion to the U.S. economy each year.

U.S. Small Business Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman, left, was joined by Admiral Rachel Levine, during a tour of Big Gay Smiles in Washington, D.C. Photo: From Guzman's X feed  

"It is, suffice it to say, an incredible impact," Guzman told the B.A.R., adding that LGBTQ-owned businesses "are delivering products and services to our neighbors and solving local problems. They really help define our neighborhoods across America."

Her Pride Month focus on such companies was aimed at plugging how they can benefit from the goals Biden has set for seeing federal dollars flow to small businesses. In April, the SBA announced that the Biden administration had exceeded its fiscal year 2023 small business contracting goal of 23% by awarding an all-time high 28.4% of federal contract dollars to small businesses. It totaled $178.6 billion in investments in the small business economy, noted the agency.

By lifting up the various programs and resources the SBA has for small businesses to take advantage of, Guzman said her aim for LGBTQ companies "is to help them be more successful."

She noted that LGBTQ businesses can apply for various certification programs that will then open the doors for them to apply for federal contracts and other resources. The LGBTQ chamber has one specific for LGBTQ-owned businesses, while the federal government has ones for businesses owned by women, people of color, and veterans.

"There are various certification programs LGBTQ businesses can be a part of," noted Guzman.

Even without certification, LGBTQ small businesses can take advantage of the SBA's various loan programs, she added.

"We work with a network of lenders across the country to support small businesses," said Guzman.

As the Business Briefing column noted in January, some owners of Bay Area companies focused on the leather and kink scene have experienced problems when seeking loans due to the nature of their businesses. While Guzman said she had not heard of issues faced by such businesses, she acknowledged that there are hurdles for minority-owned businesses.

"Businesses owned by women, people of color, and LGBTQ businesses can face barriers in the capital markets," she said. "Our focus is on increasing competition and adding more lenders and mission-based lenders committed to supporting all communities."

She noted that small businesses can be pre-screened via her agency's website at to make the loan application process easier. It also has a lender match tool that allows businesses to search for alternative lenders, she added.

"We have seen an increase in our small business lending, more specifically and especially access to small dollar loans," said Guzman. "Those are often the lifeblood for startups or the lifeblood for our small businesses that line our main streets."

Asked if she had a favorite LGBTQ-owned small business that she patronizes, Guzman told the B.A.R. that she has visited the gay bar Pitchers in D.C.'s Adams Morgan neighborhood "a couple times for happy hour." Last year, during Pride Month, she accompanied second gentleman Doug Emhoff on a visit to it.

"It is always giving back to the community," she said of the establishment.

To learn more about the SBA's various programs for LGBTQ small businesses, click here.

Got a tip on LGBTQ business news? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife.
Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!