National Small Business Week: Fireside Chat with Administrator Guzman and José Andrés
Our celebration of National Small Business Week is all about resiliency. Over the past 18 months, small businesses have had to pivot and adapt to make sure that their businesses work creatively. Serving customers in new ways. They've also stepped up to serve community. We know that they define main streets and create vibrant neighborhoods.
And they've given back even though they've faced incredible challenges. And I can think of no better example of the spirit of entrepreneurship and the commitment to community than with our entrepreneur here, chef José Andrés. Thank you so much for joining us to celebrate small businesses during National Small Business Week and for sharing your insights, which I know you have many to help our small businesses consider how to thrive and survive into the future. One of the things that I've noticed is if you've defined yourself in so many ways and we can call you an entrepreneur and humanitarian, you're a Spanish immigrant, an American citizen. You often define yourself as cook.
Can you tell us why that title is so important to you? Well, I always tell people I am a cook, or even in Spanish I am a cocinera. That's a word that I really always loved. Yes, you say you're a chef, yeah, but but cook for me is in essence what people like me do not only in America, but all around the world every single day, which is making sure that one plate of food at a time, we keep our business rolling, we try to solve some of the hunger problems America and the world faces. So in this pandemic we saw that planning was OK, but adaptation will win the day. Cooks, we are people that adapt. We are people that we love to feed everybody.
We are people that we love as I always say build longer tables, not high walls. And where we realize that sometimes very big problems, they have very simple solutions. For me, being a cook is precisely all of that. In my case, and in the case of many cooks in America and around the world, we are only as good as the last plate of food we put forward. And we must keep going. The show must keep going every single day.
Well, you've been a leader in expanding the definition of what it means to feed and nourish communities, and I think you know your work with the independent restaurant coalition to try to advocate for small businesses to make sure they could get relief during this time was so critical. And in addition, the work that you've been doing with World Central Kitchen. Giving time from your own busy entrepreneurial life to try to support communities that are in need. You feed communities in need around the world. Disasters have continued to impact us. Fires and tornadoes and earthquakes, and so I know that other similar minded restauranteurs and brewery owners have expressed similar thoughts to me in terms of how this COVID-19 pandemic has inspired them to give back to community. What drives you to
try to help community in this way and give up all your time to commit to it? I guess I'm one more guy, especially through this pandemic, trying to do the best you can not only for my family, not only for the teams, that I'm honored to work with in my restaurants, but the whole community as one. We need to understand that, I do believe that the American dream is alive, but we need to think about it as the new American dream. What must be good for me must be good for others is not anymore about either person, but it's very clear that America was founded on the principle of we, the people. We the people,
all the people, not we the people the ones that are like you or think like you. I think this is really what keeps me going forward. When I became American I was told that being an American came with a lot of benefits and I'm thankful for them.
But that's what comes with responsibilities. And I do believe if anybody knows that becoming American comes with responsibilities, in this case will be immigrants like me. I had to be obviously giving back like so many hundreds of thousands if not, if not millions of Americans going beyond their duty. We've seen these moments of empathy in every single moment, every single corner.
Obviously nurses and doctors working beyond their hours. Firefighters. You name it. But, in my business, the food business, I am so proud because in this dark hour, my businesses stepped up.
I mean, there in so many towns in so many cities that when hospital didn't know when their next meal will be coming, when elderly homes all of a sudden the kitchen shut down, when some homeless shelters, when in the middle of hurricanes and fires, that my entire community stepped up. Obviously the work I've been able to do on service, being mainly through World Central Kitchen, but it's been so many other organizations doing really amazing work making sure that food will not be another one of the problems, but the contrary, making sure will be part of the solution. That's why we began doing something like I thought was very clever. If restaurants were being shut down, because it was the right thing to do at the moment, If we were living a new reality, but there's still people had to be fed, why not activate the restaurants who are the best ones to feed people in need? It was smart in many ways.
Obviously safety was first we created safety protocol to make sure that everybody will be safe in a moment we didn't know much about this virus. We were able to open restaurants safely and then start producing meals and connecting with those people with boots on the ground that they knew what the needs were one city at a time. We put more than three thousand restaurants at work where the money we were getting from private donations one dollar at a time, we channel through the restaurants creating something very amazing business as it should be making sure the restaurants could keep hiring, paying their staffs, paying rent, buying from local farmers, buying fish. At the end of the day, you're keeping the ball rolling in the process. We were helping the restaurants to stay afloat.
At the same time, we were able to solve some of the hunger issues that we were facing. This is what kind of became the FEED Act. I'm very happy I always say longer tables. We got bipartisan support.
I know President Biden has been all about let's do this bringing everybody to the table and the FEED Act, that was that. We got in its moment. Senator Tim Scott and back then Senator Kamala Harris. We got Republicans and Democrats from different parts of the country in Congress supporting it.
This is what is very smart business, right, where a plate of food is used. The beginning of a better tomorrow. This is the American way.
This is why I'm very proud that was able to be part of it. Still, the FEED Act didn't pass yet. We understand that government and bills they have sometimes to run their course, but eventually I know that everybody agrees that for the future, hopefully we will not have another pandemic anytime soon, but hurricanes will happen, fires will happen, this will be a great tool to make sure that the government is there next to the people in the communities, making sure that the private sector is also part of the solution in the good times, making sure that we entertain and we give a place for everybody to belong. But in the not good times, making sure that we are the force making sure that nobody will be hungry in our communities. The SBA has been very entrepreneurial during COVID-19, we've had to pivot and adapt. But not only that, our mission workers, they're mission focused on helping small businesses.
They've been working around the clock and many people describe it that we've been in a marathon on a sprinter 's pace trying to stand up these programs to help small businesses. So when we're talking about the small businesses impacted, restaurants have been the hardest hit. Oftentimes the first to close, and probably the last to fully reopen their revenues have been impacted. We've seen them in their struggles and and I know that with the delta variant, we've now seen that consumers are being a little bit more conservative again, not wanting to go out to eat and dine out as frequently. We want to be as creative as possible at the SBA and try to help restauranteurs and all of our hard-hit industries survive this pandemic and this delta variant and be able to get to the other side. What type of impacts are you seeing with restaurants with COVID and and also the Delta variant? But what can government do to try to better support them? Well, I think everybody is always going to be asking more and more from government.
And that's what government is there for. But at the same time, I do believe everybody has to be having the consciousness of what can I do myself? Obviously, when somebody has a good idea, it's good that they speak up and they put it forward, and they will reach to administrators like you to try to say is this the idea we were waiting for? Obviously we see that restaurants is one part of this entire family of feeding America. Farmers. The people doing the delivery. The people driving your pizza from the restaurant to your home so you could be in the safety of your house. As those people were feeding America one delivery at a time.
The people working in the supermarkets, filling the shelves. It's been so many people that thanks to them, America has not had almost any issue with food. Yes, is the people that we need to be fixing homeless population in many cities that we need to be addressing the whys of homelessness in America and trying to solve it. But for restaurants not having guests.
All of a sudden, understanding that tourism very much disappear. All of these sudden understanding that airports empty like they were in a movie and goes down. All all of that you we need to understand that just the impact of not covering the basic earnings to be able to take care of their employees. Take care of the rent. Because sometimes some people think well, the guy that owns a building or a store is a rich guy.
Well, maybe he has all the savings of his lifetime in that place. He is also dependent on the restaurant to pay him. So this is what began creating this kind of perfect storm and that's why it's been so important, the government, through SBA and other ways, is being able to support as many small businesses and small in this case restaurants as possible. The uniqueness of supporting restaurants is that Every dollar that channels through a restaurant touches the economy in so many ways we don't realize. Is not only paying the rent and keeping all the employees working so they can keep paying their own bills, but paying obviously the produce companies, and the fish companies, that at the end and paying the fisherman many many times guys at on a little boat we saw it or the little farmer that has cherry orchards or all of this and all that one dollar in each restaurant who's trickling down through the economy maintaining things, going, maybe not perfect.
Nobody got rich in this pandemic in the restaurant business, but this was a way to try to to hope for that moment that the pandemic will be behind. And as many restaurants as possible, which I do believe there are in essence so important in every one of our cities in the middle of New York, or in the middle of a rural community in Iowa. That those restaurants will be very quickly and very fast as we will fully reopen again. The ones that will tell us the economy is back because people are back and everything is going to be, hopefully sooner rather than later like we saw in 1920 that we are going to be going back on the roaring 1920s. Hopefully we will become the roaring 2021, 2022.
That's what we are hoping for. And we've seen with our small businesses, especially that they've had grit and determination during this time, you know to to as they struggle to become more resilient during COVID, I know that as an entrepreneur you embody so many of these rich skills that are needed to run a business successfully. I know that with so many of your ventures that ability to find the solution and find the right partners to just move forward is so key.
When you look at entrepreneurship and just that brave step of opening a business to support yourself and your family, what are the skills? the core skills that are needed to be successful? To me I think the most important skill that served me well is to be highly aware. Not of all the things you know but highly aware of what you don't know and try to cover those with people that will help you be better and smarter. So it's OK to say I'm not very good at business or at money.
It's plenty of people that are just make sure you find those people so if you want to be more in the creative side or more in the people side or we cannot expect everybody to be good at everything. Business, especially small business, are a very complex thing. We understand that especially in restaurants, many restaurants fell in the good times. Imagine in the middle of COVID. So you asked me before about what
ideas or things the government through your role now with the SBA? I do believe education is key. I'm a guy that left school when I was young. I think helping the small business community of America. Which, anyway, America is the ultimate entrepreneur country in the world. But always more must be done. So we all understand the numbers.
We all understand that we want to work hard to make it for us for our families, for the people who work with us, for our community. And you don't want one restaurant to fail, but I do believe me, first, just to have more tools that I know they are there, but if anything, make sure that everybody is aware that the SBA and the government will be there to make sure that -- business has changed a lot in the last 20-30 years, maybe something that was good 30 years ago without ever changing a scenario -- we all need refreshers and understand what it means to have a successful business. And understand where then SBA can be coming in to help you in those moments that the wind is not coming to you from the back and moving yourself forward. I do believe will be very important, as we will start reopening the economy, that those especially young people or not so young people that want to be back again with a food truck, a little bagel shop, a little taco corner place, that we will help those people with the right loans to give them an opportunity again, maybe because they lost the places, to give them an opportunity to again be part of a functioning America, where everyone of those small businesses is what makes America really unbelievable.
And I do believe those two things. Education. We need to understand again that many restaurants closed.
I shut down one of the restaurants in this pandemic. It's not easy. It's real money that me and my partners lost. But for me was not so much the money I lost but but also the people I couldn't keep giving a job the day after and all those things are hard, but it's great to think we're gonna go again we're gonna try again we're gonna make it happen again. Why? Because we can never give up. And restaurants, here's a beautiful way to be saying America needs to be fed.
We a lot of people and mouths that need to be fed. Restaurants are places of entertainment. Restaurants are places of restoration. We restore and not only our bodies physically, but we restore ourselves.
With faith that together sharing a meal with people we know or people we just met. Being in a place with people from different places around America around the world. That is a way to restore faith that together we can make it happen that we, the people, one meal at a time, one restaurant one food truck, reopening at the time things are going to be looking much better and hopefully a few weeks, few months from now. We want to continue to encourage people with ideas from everywhere and anywhere as President Biden says to pursue their dream of business ownership. The SBA is here to help and getting that message out is so critical, which is why we've tried to do further outreach to communities and serve them and meet them where they're at. In addition to celebrating National Small Business week, we're also celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
And we've seen incredible rates of business growth across our Latino-owned firms, equally with our women-owned firms, and our Black-owned businesses. How do we continue to nurture that spirit of entrepreneurship and ensure that we're helping incentivize folks to start their businesses, pursue their dreams? Well, I think the Latino, Hispanic community in America, it has something very special that applies, hopefully forever growing a successful business, especially women in the Latino, Hispanic realm, which is a sincere belief in family. A sincere belief in community, in understanding that you are only as good as the person you have around you, around your table. In these longer tables, not higher walls. And I think this is something we're gonna see more of it in the years to come.
This sense of family, of taking care of each other, translates so well when you move from the family realm to the business world. And I think this is gonna be something that always is when I play in favor of the of the Latino, Hispanic community. But you can say the same about a Native Americans that we need to be more next to them. I've seen in first person how the community came together, for example, in the Navajo Nation, across four states How, in a very difficult hour for them, for different reasons, I saw especially young people, and older alike, but coming together to take care of their people. I think we need to be next to them.
Obviously they African-American community that I think we we still have big debt with them for obvious historical reasons and more is more they also have this amazing sense of family and community and and I think that's for me very important in bringing them to to the business side. So I think nurturing that family spirit, what's good for me, might be good for others with the people, I'm only as good as the people I have around me. This is something that is going to play very well for all these minorities, but then everybody. At the end of the day, we are all Americans. Yes, we need to concentrate in those that sometimes are forgotten or left behind. But we we need to make sure that we are there next to those people.
that seems, especially when we are having more, and more, and more moments that entire communities businesses are decimated because of a hurricane or because of fire, because an earthquake or so many other reasons, we're going to have to be more than resilient. We're going to have to be smart in building and rebuilding better make sure that if we are in an area prone for hurricanes, how do we build so we don't have to be rebuilding every single time we are going to have to be putting forward these thinking that if the infrastructure is yes, it is, is good to be investing in better infrastructure. They will say we need to get ready even for more. Make sure that every time something happens, entire communities don't get destroyed. So we are able to win the battle against climate change by thinking ahead. So it's a whole bunch of situations that if we are smart use in the process of being ready for the future, we create more jobs, we build better where we build better and in the process we create this amazing ecosystem where we stop throwing money at the problem.
Rebuilding every single time the entire electric grid and we invest in the solutions. Maybe it's about time we start doing grids that they come underneath and now everything is totally wiped out and we live over a million people in Louisiana without electricity. I think it's time to just be smarter. That's what we want to be.
Obviously having a government that takes care of the people and especially when you can bring as many people to the table to agree in certain things that they must be basic. Where everybody would agree should every American deserves that their entire electric grid doesn't disappear the moment you have a hurricane. I think everybody will agree with this. Should every children in America should have a plate of food? 98% of Americans believe that every children in America should have food on the table. It's certain things that I think we can find always common ground.
President Biden has said many times that he wants to find common ground as well. The type of leaders I like. They maybe went from one party or another, but leaders that believe in longer tables, this is the type of leaders America wants. Its the type of leaders America needs and its the type of leader the world is looking for. So let's keep finding those moments to build and rebuild better.
Let's carry on that a little bit further because our whole theme for National Small Business Week is resiliency and we've seen that throughout multiple disasters, small businesses often are the ones who struggled the most with being prepared and they have a challenge planning for that next great event and it's going to come again and again and you've seen in your travels with World Kitchen that those impacts direct hand in how communities and small businesses respond. What advice do you give to small businesses to plan for the future to be resilient? What can they do? Very often sometimes when you go somewhere and you see destruction especially which is the area unfortunately I have little expertise on, and you see entire buildings gone, and obviously it's very easy to say why they and build better. I would say we don't have the money to build better. We build with what we had. So you can be smart about it, but their answer is also very obvious.
You can only ask from people when they put every single dollar they have saved into something they call their own. But, you were able to be finding ways, through FEMA, through SBA, that in the same effort many small business owners are trying to build their dream, their coffee shop, their little farm, whatever is the dream, they want to have. If we are able to use be covering. With X percentage to build better, that would be very smart way for the federal dollars to be at the service of the American people. Instead of them having to be fixing and rebuilding something that was totally destroyed, what if we go ahead and we say we are in an area prone to hurricanes, we're going to be giving X percentage so the business can be created in a way that hopefully will be able to survive hurricane five.
I think this will be the smartest way, especially with these infrastructure bill and beyond. The experience I have through World Central Kitchen and even sometimes my wife and I personally with some money, maybe we put in some communities. I wish Puerto Rico, we have hundreds of farms, all of them were asking that as we are giving them grants, or sometimes loans with zero interest, as then we are concentrating on food and creating resilience. And then you have greenhouse.
It's a small greenhouse but you do well for you and your family. And all of the sudden you are bringing those containers that sometimes nobody is using anymore because there are no good for shipping. But they still they are very good and you are able to put those one, two, three, four containers in your land very well attached to the ground and understand you have a system that if a hurricane is coming you're bringing these greenhouse that is half way outside halfway inside because Puerto Rico has a lot of water and a lot of sun and you bring everything inside the container, everything is put into safety, all of a sudden it's a small business that helps entire family and few employees they hire to have a great job. And all of a sudden, everything is safe, the hurricane comes, the hurricane goes, you wake up, you clean, in a few days, you are back in business. We need to start thinking this way.
That's how World Central Kitchen thinks. And when we rebuild, we must be rebuilding smarter. And I think this will be something very good for the SBA and and even I would say FEMA.
Even FEMA comes after. But I do think prevention will win the day. Let's stop trying to solve the problems after the destruction and let's start going into an investment before so we make sure that everyone builds from homes, to restaurants, to food trucks, to greenhouses, to cheese making facilities in a smarter way so we don't have to start from zero every single time something keeps happening in so many parts of America, especially in the South, the hurricane prone area. Well, small businesses are such a critical part of our economy. They're the job creators.
They have great economic output and they really define our communities. As I've said, I love this concept of long tables, because I always talk about that they are giants in our economy, but that is together and with their joint voices. And so thank you so much for being a constant advocate for small businesses and using your voice to really support and help them grow. You're very welcome and you know we were talking sometimes, especially after emergencies. The first thing I did in the morning after Ida, was we had a little issue with some of the food deliveries we were supposed to be getting and we got less than we wanted but I'm not worried because I know there's always food there.
So I began finding the small businesses that had fruit, the small businesses that had bread, the small businesses, sometimes they only needed a generator, to make sure that the fruit will stick, because they didn't have one or because the one they had broke because it was old. This is a very smart way to be investing in resilience, in infrastructure, Thanks for that, the small business owner being willing to work with us. we were able to deliver tens of thousands of fresh fruit from day one in New Orleans and the parishes surrounding it. So you see it's amazing ways how the simple investment in a generator is a difference between Tens of thousands of Americans receiving a piece of fresh fruit or not. Tens of thousands of Americans receiving sandwich or not or tens of thousands of Americans receiving a hot meal or not.
The quicker we deliver aid, the faster we start thinking about rebuilding. So every second counts. And then we can pull in the SBA and the American government at the service of achieving that they know is what President Biden wants to do and what you want to do, I think will serve every single American so well. Where, in my case, one plate of food at a time is how you start rebuilding America.
I'm going to take that and use that to inspire me every day at the SBA too. It's going to be one loan at a time, one education resource at a time, and that how we should be judged and that's how we need to help. So, thank you. Thank you. Administrator, I appreciate it. Thank you.