CELEBRATING WOMEN IN BUSINESS
U.S. SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY CONFERENCE
SEPTEMBER 18, 2003
© Copyright 2003 Hewlett-Packard Development Company, L.P
All rights reserved. Do not use without written permission from HP.
It was my hope that I would be standing in front of you right now. But I guess it figures that at a breakfast honoring such accomplished women, Mother Nature would step up to remind us all who's really in charge.
I was actually in the air last night, on my way to Washington, when we had to turn back home. And in true California style, I tried to seek a recall of that decision, but to no avail. So, I want to thank you all for your patience here this morning. And I want to wish all of you a safe return home once this breakfast is over.
First and foremost, I wanted to be there today to thank Administrator Barreto for the great job he is doing. All of us carry a certain amount of responsibility in our jobs, but how would you like to be the guy responsible for overseeing a sector that generates two-thirds of all the jobs and economic growth in America? That's a lot of pressure. But as a person who has spent his life in and around small businesses - starting with his parents' restaurant - Hector Barreto is the right person for the job. So thank you, Mr. Administrator, for all you do for the small business owners of America.
One of the reasons I have so much confidence in his ability to get the job done is because he has Melanie Sabelhaus at his side. Now, I did some checking, and I noticed something on the Deputy Administrator's resume that bothered me a little bit. It turns out that before she started her own business - a business that generates $10 million a year - she spent 15 years working for IBM…
Normally, my position would require that I hold that against her. But the very fact that the second-highest ranking small business official in the United States is a woman with small business experience and IT experience is enough to warm my heart through the worst Hurricane Isabel has to throw our way.
We are here today to celebrate a group of awardees and honor history. The road America has taken to forming a more perfect union - especially for women and minorities - has been long, but the roots are deep. Go back in history, and the remarkable thing you'll find is that women have been leading this nation's commerce for more than 220 years.
One such woman at the top of her trade was Mary Alexander, whose son, Lord Sterling, won fame in the Revolutionary War. From the 1720s through the 1760s, Mary Alexander was a powerful merchant in New York City, and her business was worth upwards of 100,000 pounds - real money, then and now. The same went for Philadelphian Elizabeth Meredith, who ran a leading tannery, negotiated contracts, and managed the books from 1742 to 1799.
And shortly after the Civil War, a young woman named Belle Otis wrote a diary that said, "I am told that it is not genteel and fashionable for young ladies to work, but necessity demands it. The question is, do I go on salary, or engage in some business of my own?" She decided on the latter because she was, as she said, "as capable of managing a business and obtaining all the profits of it, as the one who might employ me." Though she was frightened, she was happy, and she said, "…because business will be independence." I hope that someday, America's history books see fit to remember women like Belle Otis and Mary Alexander.
More than 150 years later, we celebrate the same thing today. It has been said that owning your own business is the cornerstone of the American Dream and the very heart of our entrepreneurial economy. President Reagan once called small business owners the "explorers of the modern era - the entrepreneurs, men and women with vision, with the courage to take risks and faith enough to brave the unknown."
Now when we talk about that risk, we usually use words like hard work, and courage, and creativity, and determination - and yes, independence. But to me, the word that best sums up what all of you do is "faith" - faith that you can take your dream, or your idea and turn it into reality; even when others say it will never work, or it won't succeed, or it can't be done.
From time to time, turning your dream into reality has meant finding somebody else to share that faith; somebody to give an entrepreneur with a dream - not a hand out, but a hand up. For the past 50 years, one organization that has shared that faith is the Small Business Administration.
The SBA operates under the simple belief that some of the most creative ideas don't always come from the people or places we would expect to look first - sometimes they come from people dreaming big dreams in a garage, or at a kitchen table, or at the counter of a pie shop, and those people only need the chance to show what they can do. Since its inception in 1953, the SBA has helped more than 20 million Americans start, grow, and expand their businesses - placing more than $170 billion in direct or guaranteed loans. And to me, they're an example of public-private partnerships at their finest.
This morning, we celebrate the fact that an increasing share of that assistance goes to women-owned and minority-owned businesses. Today, women-owned businesses are growing at two times the rate of all other U.S. firms, employ more than seven million Americans, and create more than $1 trillion in wealth.
And while we celebrate the success of women-owned businesses, what we also celebrate today is diversity. It is surely no accident that in the 50 years of the SBA - 50 years in which the face of entrepreneurial America has included more women, but also more Americans of every faith, color and background - we have achieved the greatest economic expansion and success in our history.
America is a better place when all voices are heard; when every person has a chance to succeed; when every single American has the chance to live out their dreams; and diversity is given a chance to flourish.
At HP, we share that vision. Six decades ago, we were founded as a company that believes our purpose on this earth is not just to make a dollar, but to make a difference. At a time when IT is more important to small business than ever before, we believe our job is to use technology to unlock the potential that exists inside every single person and every business. It's a belief that has helped us become the leading technology company for small and medium-sized businesses in the world, with more than $21 billion in annual sales.
Later today, I'm going to announce the Smart Office Initiative, a comprehensive and sustained effort that will deliver more for SMBs - however and wherever they want to work - and make the entire technology experience more reliable and less complicated. Today's announcement will build on the potential that we all know is inherent in technology, yet today sometimes falls a bit short. It will also build on our profound belief that when our technology is added to your hopes and dreams, everything is possible.
We're also a company that believes in partnerships. One of the partnerships that has meant the most to us is our partnership with SBA. One program we sponsor together is called the Business Matchmaking Program; it's a first of its kind program that is working to give small businesses direct access to federal, state, and local government agencies and large corporate contract opportunities. And we were honored this month to be the very first inductee into the newly-established SBA Hall of Fame.
Even though we are a large, $75 billion company with operations around the world, we know the power of that first idea. Six decades ago, HP started with two people in a garage and an idea. And Compaq, who we merged with last year, began over a discussion in a pie shop - and was helped into existence by an SBA loan.
We believe there is no power greater than the power of the dreams and ideas in this room today. Fifty years from now, when SBA is celebrating its 100th anniversary, maybe the CEO of your company will be standing here and telling the story of how your multi-billion dollar company started with an idea at your kitchen table. Your dreams are not only the engine behind the American economy today, but the essence of the American Dream.
Thank you for letting us be part of that journey.