U.S. Small Business Administration Deputy Administrator Marie Johns visited two small businesses in Coral Gables on Thursday, Dec. 13, during her trip to SBA’s South Florida District.
Johns visited Coral Gables businesses Essence Boutique and Books & Books. She also had the opportunity to have lunch with Coral Gables Mayor James Cason and the President of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Mark Trowbridge.
“When you buy something at a small business like Essence Boutique or Books & Books, it’s just not another purchase,” said Johns to one reporter. “It’s an investment in the community.”
“The way Coral Gables was planned years ago, lends itself to small business,” said Trowbridge. “It’s very difficult to combine small business spaces for larger stores. It was great to have SBA’s deputy administrator visit and meet with some of our small business owners and mayor.”
Gauging client satisfaction isn’t only important to small business owners but also for Johns who grew up in a family of a small business owner. She travels regularly to meet with small business owners to see firsthand SBA’s success and how it can do more to help.
For Essence Boutique owner Sandra Moreira who turned to SBA last year for assistance to help re-open a second store, it must’ve been a surprise to see SBA’s deputy administrator walk through her front door.
“Essence Boutique is a family-owned, women’s fashion store and we’ve been here in Coral Gables for seven years,” said Moreira. “When I decided to reopen another store in Miami, I applied for an SBA Express loan from JP Morgan Chase Bank and it was approved in October 2011. Because of SBA’s help, I was able to reopen and create four new jobs. Being able to meet Marie Johns and to say ‘thank-you’ was a great opportunity.”
Johns also visited Books & Books and met with owner and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair International, Mitchell Kaplan. As he showed her his store, Johns listened intently as Kaplan shared some of his insights of a 30-year career, community bookstore owner who expanded his business to include other book shop locations on Miami’s renowned South Beach and the city’s international airport.
“I was glad to see our SBA leadership return to the South Florida District and meet with our small business owners as well as highlight what consumers can do to support south Florida’s small businesses during the holiday season,” said SBA South Florida Director Francisco “Pancho” Marrero.
Small businesses are responsible for creating more than 60 percent of the country’s net new private sector jobs each year. Last fiscal year, more than 1630 businesses in the South Florida District, like Essence Boutique, sought SBA guaranteed loans totaling more than $783.5 million to start or expand their businesses and create jobs.
For more information on SBA programs in the South Florida District visit us online at www.sba.gov/fl/south.
By James Brooks