By T.M. Gray, Special to The New Tri-State Defender

Some entrepreneurs get their start by reaching out to a rich uncle for startup cash. But for those of us without rich uncles, there’s Uncle Sam.

So said Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Contreras-Sweet was on Beale Street Wednesday as part of her five-day Delta Region Main Street Road Tour, which was designed for her to have visited 11 cities in five states by the time it ends in New Orleans on Friday (July 8).

Contreras-Sweet’s Beale Street presence was signaled by the arrival of an SBA bus detailed with “DREAM BIG. START SMALL. SBA MAIN STREET ROAD TOUR”. Mayor Jim Strickland and other officials greeted her before they set off on a walking tour of Beale Street. Later they visited Carpenter Primary Healthcare, the 2016 SBA Tennessee Minority Business of the Year.

Memphis fared well last year in the SBA sponsored “Startup In A Day” national competition in which cities came up with online solutions to streamline the process of starting a business. Memphis was one of 27 prizewinners of $50,000 through the “Start Small” competition. (The City of Los Angeles was awarded $250,000 through the “Dream Big” competition.)

Contreras-Sweet took note of Memphis’ success on Wednesday. In partnership with the Memphis Epicenter and Shelby County government, the city came up with a mobile app-in-development that puts all the forms, applications and paperwork in one place. Presumably, that would reduce the time to startup to as little as one day, depending on how well and complete the paperwork.

“Days are in important in business,” Contreras-Sweet said.

Christopher Masingill, co-chair of the Delta Regional Authority, suggested that the visit by Contreras-Sweet might encourage some of Memphis’ small business dreamers with big ideas.

“Maybe a startup business will say, ‘Hey, let me go to the Small Business Development Center and talk to a business counselor. Maybe they can show me some other ways to do a better job at what I’m doing.’”

Sean Bullock, an SBDC counselor, said, “Memphis is looking like a great place to start a business. … Let’s keep the momentum going!”

After her visit to Memphis, Contreras-Sweet was set to travel to Helena, Ark. for a walking tour on Cherry St. The late afternoon itinerary included a visit to Clarksdale, Miss. for a discussion on Small Business Lending in the Delta, followed by a walking tour of the city and a visit to the Delta Blues Museum.

(For more about the Small Business Development Center, visit