SBA head promotes businesses owned by women, Latinos in Detroit visit

Myesha Johnson
The Detroit News

Detroit – The top official with the U.S. Small Business Administration visited Detroit on Thursday to promote the government's efforts to promote businesses owned by woman and Latinos.

Of the 900,000 small businesses in Michigan, nearly 340,000 are owned by women, and just over 24,000 are owned by Hispanics. Isabella Casillas Guzman toured one of those businesses, Hacienda Mexican Foods, and met the owner of the tortilla chip maker, Lydia Gutierrez.

Hacienda Foods President and CEO Lydia Gutierrez, center, introduces supervisor Lucia Garcia, right, to SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, left, during the tour, Thursday afternoon, September 22, 2022.
U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman takes a tour of Hacienda Foods in Southwest Detroit.

Guzman also participated in a panel with other female business leaders in Grosse Pointe Shores to promote the SBA's new digital tools available for existing and aspiring small businesses operators.

"During the pandemic, we saw dramatic shifts to higher technology adoption across businesses with everything from operational efficiencies, e-commerce, social media," Guzman said. "We want to leverage this moment to make sure small businesses continue to grow with digital technology."

The conference announced free resources to help small businesses expand their customer base, manage their growth, find and retain employees and enter new markets.

"They're still facing challenges... we want to connect them to these partners and have frank discussions about what's needed so that we can all adapt and respond to help the small businesses," she said.

Gutierrez said a Paycheck Protection Loan she received from the SBA during the COVID-19 pandemic was critical to saving the business she started in southwest Detroit with her late husband in 1994.

In the early days of the pandemic, the distributors and restaurants that make up Hacienda's customer base stopped ordering.

Hacienda Mexican Foods owner President and CEO Lydia Gutierrez, left, puts her arms up in delight as she welcomes SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, right, to her business.

Without the SBA aid, "I don't think we would've been in business. Had we closed the doors we would not have been able to (re)open," Gutierrez said. "We would have had to try to activate again and that would've been very difficult for us, so we kept our doors open."

Now, Gutierrez plans to build another manufacturing location in southwest Detroit in the near future, creating over 150 jobs.

"I'm very thankful and humbled by having Isabella Guzman here ... as a role model, as a female Latina in a position that she has," Gutierrez said. "I think that she's doing a tremendous job, that she's out there and that people can identify with her is really important."