Oklahoma entrepreneurs in industries as varied as craft beer brewing, software development and refurbishment of batteries that power new hybrid vehicles shared a common frustration last week with a small business advocate from the SBA regional office in New Orleans.
You can sum it up in three words: access to capital.
Armed with a yellow legal pad and pen, Caitlin Cain, Region VI Advocate for the Small Business Administration met with seven Oklahoma entrepreneurs in i2E’s Enterprise Room for 90 minutes, taking notes continuously.
With a short preamble in which she outlined for the Oklahomans the responsibilities of SBA Advocates and how effective they can be in reversing regulations that are harmful to small businesses, Cain opened the floor for discussion.
“The purpose of this roundtable today is really to give you an idea of what advocacy is all about,” Cain told the group, which also included members of i2E’s investment and marketing teams, an OCAST representative and other SBA officials.
“I’m here to hear from you and what your concerns are in terms of federal regulatory and policy issues,” she said.
With that, I expected an Airing of the Grievances to commence.
But the Oklahoma entrepreneurs didn’t blast the SBA or government policies as I anticipated, except to hammer home the point that capital is hard to come by for tech-based entrepreneurs and bank financing is practically impossible.
One entrepreneur singled out i2E’s Concept Fund as one of the few sources of financing available to Oklahoma entrepreneurs and urged the SBA to create special financing programs that target innovation.
There were some issues beyond a lack of capital that surfaced, however. As the meeting concluded, an interactive entrepreneur told Cain she planned to email a list of issues she has dealt with to the SBA Regional Advocate.
And we did hear the airing of a specific grievance that almost every business – large and small — has with the government: the complicated U.S. tax code.
“It’s stacked against small business,” the business owner told Cain. “That is a real, real issue for everyone.”
Cain’s pen worked overtime throughout the session documenting the Oklahoma perspective. The information gathered can be effective in advocating for small business, she said.
“Our information is only as good as the information we get from people,” Cain said. “We work really well when you give us specific information about policies and regulations you are struggling with and what you think the appropriate fix to that regulation is.”
The SBA Region VI advocate can can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 504.589.2838.