Obama Congratulates SBA Award Winners

THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. Good afternoon, everybody.

AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.

THE PRESIDENT: And thank you, Lisa. I think you can see that she’s pretty good at making a pitch. (Laughter.) And we’re grateful for sharing your story and your enthusiasm with all of us. And congratulations to you and everybody who is being honored here today as some of America’s most outstanding business owners and lenders and counselors and coaches.

I want, also, all of you to know that I am so pleased with my selection as SBA Administrator. Karen Mills is somebody who is passionate about small business; she understands the ins and outs of it, the nuances of it. She is fighting for bringing SBA into the 21st century. So I think you’ll find just an outstanding partner in her, please give her a big round of applause. (Applause.)

Running a successful small business is impressive in any year — but it’s especially impressive this year, at this moment when we’re facing the most serious economic downturn in generations. And I know that what you do isn’t easy. I know that for every contract you’ve won, every sale that you’ve made and job you’ve created, you’ve had plenty of setbacks and false starts and late nights wondering how on earth you’re going to keep everything together and why you decided to take this path in the first place.

But you kept on going. You scrimped and you saved and you borrowed and you improvised. And your failures didn’t discourage you — they educated you and they motivated you to succeed the next time around. And today, we honor that courage and determination and daring just as much as we honor the success that it ultimately brought you.

And that’s the spirit that led Lisa — a single mom, a former hairstylist — you know, the hair looks good, so you — (laughter) –

MS. PINEIRO: I’m good. I cut hair in the back room. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: In the back room, while she’s scooping ice cream — (laughter) –

MS. PINEIRO: Running the construction company. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: — running the construction company, she’s been doing her hair. (Laughter.)

MS. PINEIRO: I do.

THE PRESIDENT: I think there was a song about you, wasn’t there? (Laughter.)

MS. PINEIRO: “She works hard for the money” — (laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: To set out a little over a year ago — a little over 10 years ago with nothing but a loan from her parents and a big idea, and her company now has 78 employees; it’s grossed nearly $4 million in sales last year.

It’s what led Tom Masterson — where’s Tom? Tom’s right here — Tom, after working for 30 years in the electrical industry, to co-found T.E.M. Electric, funded it entirely on his own and working out of his living room until he won his first major contract. Today, the company employs 75 people and has over $12 million in revenues.

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