This month we’re speaking with Robert Goza, Lead Economic Development Specialist/Public Information Officer at the U.S. Small Business Administration Eastern Pennsylvania District Office. Rob joined the Eastern Pennsylvania District Office team in 2013. He previously served as Regional Communications Director for SBA’s Mid-Atlantic Region. Prior to that, he served as Chief of Public Affairs for the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (New Orleans), as a Captain in the United States Air Force, and as a photographer in the United States Navy. He has worked as a journalist and photojournalist, has a dual-major bachelor’s degree in English literature and journalism from the University of Mississippi, and a master’s degree in history from Louisiana State University.
What makes the Small Business Administration unique in Philadelphia’s business community?
The U.S. Small Business Administration is the only federal agency of the United States government whose whole mission is to help small businesses start, grow, and succeed. The old joke that the single scariest sentence in the English language is "I’m from the government and I’m here to help," but in my agency’s case it really is true.
Who are your members now and who should join?
As a federal agency we really don’t have a way to join – everyone in the U.S. public is technically already a "member" since our mission is to help U.S. small businesses get started, grow, and succeed. The best way to "join in" is to let SBA help you start and grow your business by going to sba.gov or contacting SBA’s Eastern Pennsylvania District Office, located at Parkview Tower, 1150 First Ave., Ste. 1001, King of Prussia, PA 19406, 610-382-3062. Of course, we and our resource partners are often found at events at the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Business Resource & Innovation Center!
What is your favorite SBA event of the year?
That’s like asking someone which kid is their favorite! We have held a great event in the Skyline Room [at Parkway Central Library] each of the last couple of years called Financing Your Small Business that brings together up to 10 of our resource and lending partners that has been a blast because so many people could attend and get all sorts of questions answered by the experts. I’m also a big fan of SBA’s Meet The Lenders event, which is almost like a speed-dating event where small business owners can have a 10 minute meeting to pitch their financing needs to SBA lending partners, such as banks, microlenders, and certified development companies. Of course, each year we also hold our local event in celebration of National Small Business Week where we recognize the small business community’s contribution to the American economy and present our local Small Business Week Awards.
What is something awesome that people may not know about your organization?
What SBA can do for small business, of course! Our mission basically is to help small businesses get access to what we call the 3 C’s: Counseling (technical assistance and training to help start and successfully run a small business), Capital (getting money to start, run and expand your business), and Contracting (learning how to do business with the federal government as the largest purchaser of goods and services in the world). Of course, the real secret is just how many organizations that are there to help small businesses in Philadelphia – I think most of them are organizations we partner with in some way, though we also work with organizations informally whose mission is linked to ours as well. One of the best of those is the Free Library BRIC!
Any fond library memories?
When I was really young, I lived in a very rural area and the only way to get books was when the bookmobile came around from the library. I was a pretty voracious reader, so I sometimes read the same books over and over before the bookmobile would get back again. When my family moved outside of Minneapolis and I got my first look at a really big library, I thought I was in heaven. I loved going to the library as a kid and I probably always will. In fact, not even a year ago I found a book that I had read as a kid that I wanted to share with my kids, but couldn’t remember the title or author. I spent a long time trying to find it via internet search but couldn’t. Then one day, there it was right in front of me – I found it at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Finally, what are you currently reading?
I tend to read two books at a time – a fiction book just for fun and a nonfiction book that’s a bit more serious. So I’m reading Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel, Goldfinger (because I saw it on the Free Library’s Facebook post about the 50th anniversary of the first Bond film). Isaacson really highlights how much Franklin is the "founding father who winks at us" across the generations. It’s fascinating to read about how much Philadelphia history, and so much of what is incredible and unique about America, is something Franklin had a hand in or came up with himself. Reading Goldfinger is like a fictional time capsule of a Cold War-era with pay phones and telegraphs. Because of when it’s set, it’s easier to believe a suave spy with really bad habits could single-handedly save the world by thwarting a criminal mastermind whose evil plan is to break into the gold vault at Fort Knox. I’ve seen so many of the movies that I can almost hear the theme song while I’m reading.
Be sure to visit sba.gov for great resources including abundant financial information, self-paced webinars, and the always helpful Eastern Pennsylvania District Office Resource Guide! Catch up with Rob at many local SBA events throughout eastern Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia and the Business Resource & Innovation Center.