Meet Isabel Guzman, the SBA Administrator Biden picked to navigate 'a crossroads moment for small businesses'

Susan Walsh/APPresident-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for Small Business Administrator, Isabel Guzman speaks during an event at The Queen theatre in Wilmington, Del., Friday, Jan. 8, 2021.
  • President-elect Joe Biden has chosen Isabel Guzman to head up the US Small Business Administration, the transition team announced on Friday.
  • Currently serving as California’s Small Business Advocate, Guzman said the US is “at a crossroads moment for small businesses.”
  • Experts say that the new administrator will need to raise the SBA’s public profile in order to effectively reach businesses across the country and support the ongoing economic recovery.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Isabel Guzman is President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to head up the US Small Business Administration, the transition team announced on Friday.

“I am honoured to return to the SBA at a crossroads moment for small businesses,” Guzman in a speech accepting her nomination.

She joins an economic team headlined by former Fed chair Janet Yellen for the Treasury, and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, recently announced to lead the Commerce Department.

Currently serving as the director of California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate, Guzman was previously deputy chief of staff at the SBA during the Obama administration.

Guzman was also listed as a volunteer on the transition’s agency review team for small business, which was tasked with preparing the new administration to take over from current SBA head Jovita Carranza.

Although the Administrator is a cabinet-level position, the 68-year-old SBA has historically been one of the lower-profile government agencies in Washington. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic and public health response devastated small businesses across the US.

Today, the SBA is responsible for handling nearly a trillion dollars in emergency relief money, having issued more loans in the past nine months than it has in its entire existence before that.

“Now more than ever, our small businesses need us,” Guzman said.

Guzman was raised in an entrepreneurial household — her father was a veterinarian with his own clinic — and she graduated with degrees in business and economics from the Wharton business school at UPenn.

During Obama’s second term, she was Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to Administrator Karen Mills.

As the leader of California’s response to the crisis, Guzman oversaw a pair of initiatives to help businesses adopt new technology and to help them reopen safely, and last month launched a $US500 million grant program.

Guzman is also the founder of GovContractPros, a small consultancy that helps businesses navigate more than $US500 billion in federal contracts — experience that dovetails with a Biden campaign plan to stimulate the economic recovery with a substantial increase in new contracting opportunities for small businesses.

Experts say that the new administrator will need to raise the SBA’s public profile in order to effectively reach businesses across the country and support the ongoing economic recovery.

“In the early days of the Biden-Harris admin, I would love to see that [SBA] voice become stronger,” a former deputy administrator at the SBA, Marie Johns, told the Wall Street Journal.

“The agency has got to do a better job of telling its own story. And by that, I mean building awareness in Main Street corridors around the country,” she added.

Sean Salas, the founder and CEO of Camino Financial, a California small business lender serving Latino entrepreneurs, told Insider he was extremely optimistic about the SBA under Guzman.

“She’s a practitioner with years of experience that will get the job done for all businesses, especially the smallest and less-served. A great appointment in my opinion,” he said.

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