Linda McMahon, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, visited female-owned companies in the Twin Cities Tuesday and later heralded the advancement of business leaders in an address to the annual conference of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) in Minneapolis.
“Over the past 40-plus years [NAWBO] broke down barriers and paved the way for women in business,” said McMahon. “Back then, women weren’t allowed to get a mortgage or even a credit card in their own names.”
In 1988, NAWBO was instrumental in the passage of federal legislation that eliminated the requirement of many banks that husbands co-sign business loans for their wives.
McMahon noted that in recent years women have started most new businesses. They own 9.9 million companies that employ more than 8 million people, provide $264 billion in wages to employees and $1.4 trillion in sales. (Most female-owned businesses have no employees beyond the owner.)
“When my husband and I started our business back in the 1970s, he spent a lot of time on the road … while I stayed home with our young son and managed the books,” McMahon recalled. “I constantly worried about our cash flow. Should we continue leasing our typewriter for $12 a month or could we finally afford to buy it? I know firsthand the headaches and sleepless nights that every small business owner in this room and beyond has probably faced …”
McMahon, 68, said in an interview that she and her husband, Vince McMahon, lost their house and car to bankruptcy in an earlier venture that failed before they started World Wrestling Entertainment.
WWE made them worth hundreds of millions after it became a public company. McMahon left WWE in 2009 for unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate as a Republican from Connecticut, as well as philanthropic and civic interests. She was appointed head of the SBA by President Trump, a longtime acquaintance, earlier this year.
The SBA traditionally has been a low-controversy appointment, McMahon noted. And she said Trump had targeted her agency for only a 5 percent budget cut, which is less than at other agencies that have yet to be approved for fiscal 2018.
SBA generally enjoys bipartisan support in Congress because of its role in working with banks to build local economies.
Minnesota ranks 10th among the states for SBA loan guarantees.
The number of SBA-backed loans to concerns that are majority-owned by women has increased from 244 in 2012 to 328 in fiscal 2017. That is a much faster rate of growth than the overall portfolio.
McMahon, who is on a multistate tour to meet small business people and champion their causes, visited two female-owned businesses in Minneapolis Tuesday: Hen House Eatery downtown and Wood from the Hood, a lumber-and-wood products maker in south Minneapolis that uses trees taken by disease, storms and construction projects.
She also visited Element Gym in St. Paul, which is owned by Dalton Outlaw, who left a corporate job in 2011 to launch the multipurpose community fitness center. He won a Minnesota SBA award earlier this year.
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144