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Maria Contreras-Sweet, the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, spoke last Tuesday in an intimate setting at Hera Labs female business accelerator in Sorrento Valley.
In advance of National Women’s Equality Day last Wednesday, U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) head and Obama cabinet member Maria Contreras-Sweet spoke to a group of more than 30 female entrepreneurs and small business owners at Hera Labs in Sorrento Valley on the topic of female empowerment and the progress she’s witnessed throughout her time in the workforce.
The visit came just after Hera Labs was named one of two San Diego innovation hubs to receive $50,000 from the SBA in the second annual Growth Accelerator Fund Competition, and included a presentation of the grant. Hera Labs, which stands for Helping Entrepreneurs Rapidly Accelerate, is a female-focused accelerator responsible for helping startups launch, educating entrepreneurs, taking existing businesses to the next level, and creating new jobs. Hera Fund, a division of Hera Labs, is a group for female angel investors who want to fund and support female founders.
While women have made giant strides toward equality over the past 95 years since they earned the right to vote, there is still progress to be made. But, according to Contreras-Sweet, things are headed in the right direction:
“When I was growing up, everybody wanted to work for a corporation. We tried to look like men by dressing in pinstripes and suits. Today, entrepreneurship is a movement, and fortunately the President put SBA on the Cabinet.”
This move to Cabinet-rank in 2014 made Contreras-Sweet the third-ever Latina cabinet member. Contreras-Sweet set herself up for success by seeking and offering support to fellow female Cabinet members. It is this type of support that Hera Labs seeks to offer its members.
“As a woman, and especially a Mexican woman, I wasn’t finding the support I needed until Hera Labs,” said San Diego entrepreneur Lisbet Perez of RCL Janitorial Services. “It’s more than business support that Hera Labs provides; you also get emotional support and friendship, which goes a long way in business.”
Contreras-Sweet also discussed the SBA’s role in providing opportunities for female entrepreneurs as well as the need for female-run businesses.
“We’re helping women disrupt the workspace,” said Contreras-Sweet. “We all know one thing – if women invented the mammogram machine, it would be different.”
Like Contreras-Sweet, Hera Labs is helping women be disciples of change in the workplace. Since its inception in 2014, Hera Labs has hosted more than 20 workshops, educated more than 300 female entrepreneurs, helped more than 50 startups form, helped more than 50 businesses advance, and helped create 45 new jobs. With the $50,000 grant from the SBA’s Growth Accelerator Fund, the organization will continue its mission to accelerate women in business.
“We look forward to hosting additional startup accelerator “bootcamps”, pitch contests that increase access to capital, intensives for existing businesses, strategic growth sessions, access to mentors and more,” said Silvia Mah, founder of Hera Labs. “Having the support of Maria Contreras-Sweet and the SBA just two years after forming Hera Labs is truly a dream. We’ve created a force of female entrepreneurs in San Diego and we’re just getting started.”
For more information, visit Hera Labs.
About Hera Labs:
Hera Labs is a business accelerator for female business owners led by fellow entrepreneurs and advocates for female entrepreneurial and leadership success. The mission of Hera Labs is to equip and propel female founders to successfully launch, grow, and sustain their businesses efficiently and effectively, thus positively impacting the local, national, and global economy. Hera Labs is a sister organization of coworking space Hera Hub. For more information, visit Hera Labs.
About Hera Hub:
Since its inception, Hera Hub has provided a platform and presence for female entrepreneurs and women-owned businesses. We believe in building a community that provides an avenue for support, collaboration, connections and coworking for women to invest in women. We have three San Diego locations and are expanding nationally through franchising; our first east coast location is in Washington DC. For more information about finding productive workspaces, visit herahub.com. For franchise opportunities, visit Hera Hub Franchise.