At Darien event: McMahon talks small business, hard work, and new role in Washington
Linda McMahon was at the Country Club of Darien on Friday to speak to local business owners and Chambers of Commerce about being an entrepreneur and her new role as the Administrator of the Small Business Administration. The event was put on by the Darien Chamber of Commerce and First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, and the Chambers of Norwalk and Westport were also present, along with representatives from the Business Council of Fairfield County. Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei was also on hand to for the event.
“I am thoroughly enjoying what I am doing,” McMahon said as she opened, adding that she has been blessed to have lived the American dream, also joking that it was nice, “to wake up at home in my own bed.”
McMahon and her husband Vince are best known for starting the World Wrestling Federation, now World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE. McMahon spoke about the humble beginnings they faced. The pair began their work out of their home after having to file for bankruptcy as a result of a poor investment.
“We lost everything; we declared bankruptcy,” McMahon said, recalling losing her home and seeing her car get repossessed.
“We were knocked down, but we were not defeated. We got right back to work,” McMahon continued, also saying that people often ask how she did it.
“We had no choice. You just put one foot in front of the other and keep going,” she said.
McMahon would run the finances for the WWE, and recalled some of the decisions she had to make early on that now seem trivial. She used the example of having to decide if it was better to continue to lease a typewriter at $12 per month or to finally buy their own typewriter and put that $12 towards something else.
Today, the WWE is a globally known brand with over 800 employees. McMahon stepped away from the company in the late 2000s to run for senate, ultimately losing to current Senator Richard Blumenthal in 2010. She would run again in 2012, becoming the Republican candidate to take the place of Joe Lieberman, but would lose in the general election to current Senator Chris Murphy. McMahon has stayed active in the political arena however, and when President Donald Trump went about filling posts in his administration after the election, McMahon was one of the first people named and was very quickly and overwhelmingly approved.
McMahon recalled that meeting with Trump when she was called to Trump Tower, saying that he had told her he wanted someone, “who had walked the walk,” and had real world experience that could be brought to Washington.
“It’s daunting, but I told him yes,” McMahon said, adding that after accepting, Trump told her, “just do a good job.”
McMahon spoke a great deal about what the SBA really does, which goes well beyond guaranteeing loans to small business owners. The SBA also works in disaster relief alongside FEMA, and McMahon spoke about the role that they have played in Houston, Florida, California, and Puerto Rico following the recent natural disasters. More specifically, it is the role of the SBA to manage the long term economic recovery of areas affected by disasters. The SBA has an office in Puerto Rico that McMahon visited in June, well prior to Hurricane Maria. She returned to the island following the storm and said, “it just broke my heart.” The SBA actually will make loans itself following a disaster, as opposed to just guaranteeing loans, and has done so in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico. “People want to get back to normal, even if it’s a new normal,” McMahon said. “Getting back to work is key to recovery,” McMahon added.
In addition to disaster relief, the SBA offers counseling and mentorship to business owners who are looking to launch their idea. There are 68 offices for the SBA across the country, and the services are offered free of charge. The mentorship is to help educate entrepreneurs, something that McMahon feels personally passionate about. “I earned a lot of wisdom through taking risks and making mistakes,” McMahon said, hoping to pass on that knowledge to other business owners who need help getting started.
McMahon also spoke about a personal goal she has for her time as Administrator of SBA: helping young women be successful entrepreneurs, and being a role model. Recalling a time while campaigning and again now as an administrator, McMahon said people have spoken to her and thanked her for being a positive role model for young women across the county.
“They tell me there are so few role models who aren’t singers or actresses that girls can look up,” McMahon said, hoping to show that they can see a woman taking on a big challenge.
In her closing, McMahon recalled the words that Trump said to her, asking her to simply do a good job.
“I’m working my hardest. You may fall, that’s the risk in climbing, but I believe you can fall forwards,” McMahon said, adding, “What looks like failure may be opportunity in disguise.”
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said “it was an honor” to have McMahon as a guest at the event.
“The sold out event was a successful collaboration between the Darien Chamber, Norwalk Chamber, Westport/ Weston Chamber and the Business Council of Fairfield County,” she said.
“Administrator McMahon is a champion for small businesses understanding that they are the backbone of our economy. She provided important information on how the SBA supports small businesses and provides disaster recovery assistance across the country,” she said.
“Having built WWE into a highly successful global enterprise from its small business beginnings, there is no one better qualified to lead the SBA than Administrator McMahon,” Stevenson said.