Maria Contreras-Sweet

Maria Contreras-Sweet

Former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Benefits21

Leadership Group, Benefits 21

Maria Contreras-Sweet is an American business leader, US government official, civic leader and community organizer. She served as an Obama cabinet member, California state cabinet secretary and investor/entrepreneur. Her achievements in bringing efficiencies and modernization to large scale organizations have earned her international acclaim.

Honorable Contreras-Sweet, was sworn in as a member of President Obama’s cabinet as the 24th Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), supporting America’s 28 million small businesses with capital, technical assistance and federal contracts. Her drive to bring the SBA into the digital age, and expand into broader global markets yielded record-breaking results in lending, investments, contracting.

As an entrepreneur, she started three businesses, including a publicly-traded bank, serving as its founding and executive chairwoman, successfully steering it through the great recession. Prior, she served as the California cabinet Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, where she oversaw 47,000 employees and 14 state departments, including the departments of Transportation, California Highway Patrol, Housing, Financial Institutions, Corporations, Real Estate and the Department of Managed Health Care. During the state’s energy crisis, she served on the board of California’s electrical power grid, CA-ISO, and helped to stabilize the volatile energy market amid the state’s rolling blackouts.

Her corporate foray into Westinghouse, led her to its 7-Up/RC Bottling Company, where she became an equity partner.

She is a founding director of The California Endowment and Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE). She has been bestowed with five honorary doctorates. The inaugural Maria Contreras-Sweet Public Policy Global Impact Award was named in her honor by the Global Entrepreneurship Network.