Remarks by President Trump and Vice President Pence in Roundtable with Women Small Business Owners
11:10 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Thank you very much. It’s my pleasure to welcome such incredible women, including my daughter --
THE PRESIDENT: -- and unbelievable entrepreneurs and small business leaders to the White House. And also, Linda, thank you very much. You've been doing an amazing job -- I hear working 24 hours a day is what the word is. (Laughter.) Good. I'm not surprised.
ADMINISTRATOR McMAHON: Trying to keep up with you.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not surprised. And I want to thank
Linda for joining us today. She's doing a fantastic job leading the Small Business Administration, and she herself, as you know, is a great, great success story and a woman entrepreneur at the highest level. So thank you very much, Linda.
Empowering and promoting women in business is an absolute priority in the Trump administration because I know how crucial women are as job creators, role models, and leaders all throughout our communities.
As we conclude Women’s History Month, I am thrilled that we can meet to discuss how we can continue this important mission. You all have incredible stories. Many of you started businesses from scratch, with very, very limited resources -- sounds like I'm right about you, Lisa, right? (Laughter.) But you had the grit and determination to make your dreams become a reality, right?
ADMINISTRATOR McMAHON: Yes.
THE PRESIDENT: It's fantastic. Now you're providing hundreds of jobs across our country -- thousands of jobs. And you're really an inspiration to everybody -- and that's men and women, believe me. A lot of men out there, they're not doing what you're able to do.
Today, women are the primary source of income in 40 percent of American households with children under the age of 15. We also know that companies that promote women to senior leadership roles realize significantly better profits, according to statistics, than their competitors. I wouldn’t have known that. Dina, how does that work? Tell me. That's pretty impressive.
We must ensure that our economy is a place where women can work and thrive. We will continue to address the barriers faced by women professionals and entrepreneurs, including access to capital, access to markets, and access to networks. We will make it very easy. It's going to be a lot easier. You do an amazing job. And for a while it was a very, very tough -- almost impossible -- job.
My administration will also continue to advocate for policies that support working families, including making childcare more affordable and accessible. That's something that Ivanka Trump -- now Ivanka Trump Kushner -- that you really have been working on and feel so strongly about -- my daughter. I actually talked about it a lot during the campaign, and Ivanka was right up front. I also want to recognize Ivanka for helping to lead a national initiative to promote women business leaders and entrepreneurs. And the Chancellor of Germany is going to -- has asked Ivanka to go to Germany, and she'll be working on similar issues with Chancellor Merkel. So that will be very exciting for you. That's going to happen very soon. It's a very great honor.
I look forward to hearing your stories and discussing how we can work together to help all of your dreams come true and make it easier for those dreams to come true.
And with that, I'm going to turn it over to our great Vice President, Mike Pence. And thank you, Mike, for being here.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. And I want to thank all these business leaders for taking the time for a conversation with a President who I think is going to be the best friend that small business in America will ever have. And I believe that President Donald Trump is the best friend that women in business in this country will ever have. It is remarkable to think, here at the close of Women's History Month, of the impact that women-owned businesses have on our economy, Mr. President -- more than 9.4 million firms, employing 8 million Americans, and annual revenues of $1.5 trillion.
Women business owners and women-owned enterprises are an enormous force in the American economy, and I know this President is committed to continuing to promote the kinds of policies that will make it possible for your firms to grow, and for more women-led businesses to be born and to thrive all across America. The President is advancing an agenda of less regulation, less taxes, and investments in infrastructure, fair trade, and addressing healthcare costs to make healthcare affordable, not only for small business owners but for employees across the country.
Mr. President, I'm particularly pleased to be able to welcome a fellow Hoosier -- (laughter) -- to this conversation, Ms. Shirley Ann Perry. The owner of HydroTech is with us today, and she herself has a remarkable success story.
With that said, it's a privilege for me to be alongside the President today to listen in and to learn how we might better partner with each one of you and with women-owned businesses across the country to grow and thrive in this economy. And one of the great women business leaders in the country is helping the administration accomplish that, and so let me turn it over to Ivanka Trump.
MS. TRUMP: Thank you, Vice President. And thank you all so much for being here. It's the perfect culmination of Women's History Month to have all of you around the table sharing with us both your successes and also the unique challenges that you face as women entrepreneurs and small business owners.
I feel very blessed to have met so many of you over the course of the past couple months -- Lisa in Baltimore; right here in D.C., Claudia -- and hearing your personal stories and your journeys of how you became job creators. And you truly exemplify women's economic empowerment.
So we're grateful to have you join us today. And maybe we'll launch right in -- Claudia, if you want to start us off and tell us a little bit about your personal experience.
MS. MIRZA: My personal experience. Thank you very much for taking the time to listen to us. It means a lot as small business owners. Akorbi is a company with 930 employees. I started it after I lost my job. We provide multilingual business communications around the world to empower global corporations to do business abroad.
THE PRESIDENT: Great. And you've done a great job.
MS. MIRZA: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Lisa.
MS. NICHOLS: I'm Lisa Nichols. I'm the CEO and co-founder of Technology Partners. We're an information technology staffing and solutions company working across the nation. We will celebrate our 23rd birthday May the 4th. And just very, very blessed to be a part of this roundtable. Thank you so much. I'm very thankful.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. And I hear that Lisa Phillips has an amazing story to tell. (Laughter.) Can you tell it in front of all these cameras? (Laughter.) I hear that you have one of the really amazing stories to tell. So you want me to ask the press to leave? I will. (Laughter.)
MS. PHILLIPS: I just hope I don’t cry. So thank you, Ivanka, Dina, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President. Thank you for this platform. I’m Lisa Phillips. I’m the owner of Celeebrate Us -- gift baskets and parties. I celebrate families.
I provide working families with very elaborate events that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. And my own personal story -- I manage and help train homeless youth because I was once homeless myself. And I really, really, really was almost to the point of hopelessness. And so -- but what a great country we live in. This is a country of chances. And I’ve been given chances, and so I employ people that need a chance. And so, in May, I’ll be receiving my MBA, and you’re all invited to my graduation. (Applause.)
But one of the things that is required for this country is hard work. And if you are willing to work hard, you’ll get that chance. And so I’m a product of hard work, and so that’s what this country was built on. And thank you, Mr. President. Thank you for giving us a seat at the table, because what we do is we’re going to take this back to people that couldn’t be here, and give them the information and empower them.
There’s a dress owner at the store next to me, and I’m wearing one of his outfits. So I’m going to take pictures, and he’s going to send these pictures back to India, to his family. And so that’s how we help one another as business owners. We give someone else a platform. So thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Great job. You’ve done a fantastic job. Thank you, Lisa.
MS. TRUMP: One of the things that I was so amazed in your story -- and everyone around this table -- is not only the incredible job that you’ve done in building your businesses, but also the impact you’re having within your communities in terms of the work you’re doing to empower other men and women and children. So it’s really remarkable.
MS. PHILLIPS: Thank you so much. Because the worst thing you can feel is hopeless. And so the youth that I train, the homeless, when they’re dealing with breast cancer, I’ll do a workshop and empower them that, hey, that no matter where you are, that you can be elevated. Just look around, you’re going to find someone that’s willing to cheer you on. And so we just graduated a group of youth from our homeless unit in Baltimore -- our homeless program -- and now they’re working at one of the local hospitals. And one of the hospital officials actually called me and said, can you send us some more. So kudos to those young people --
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great.
MS. PHILLIPS: -- that they really want to be able to advocate.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Lisa. Thank you very much.
MS. POPE-WELLS: That’s a great story. My name is Amy Pope-Wells. I’m the owner of Link Staffing, but I also own another company called Tire Diva. There’s not too many females in the tire business -- (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: Great name, actually. (Laughter.)
MS. POPE-WELLS: Thank you, Mr. President. You know, coming here today, I was thinking about what I would say, and my businesses are my passion, but we would never have a place at this table if it wasn’t for you. Opening up your new administration is doing so much, and I need you to know that we’re taking that to our communities.
One of the things that happened for me was -- part of my story is, I was a nurse by graduation, and I spent years -- and that was the status quo in the community that I lived in, but something inside of me wanted to do more. And I’ll never forget, my first job was an executive job, flying across the United States, going hospital to hospital, looking at the challenges and the problems, and I did that for 15 years, and it just felt like I was banging my head up against a wall, but I knew there was so much more opportunity.
So I went and started my own company. I said, you know what, I’ll just be a boutique firm, but you can’t keep that inside. So I started my business and grew it. Started partnering with companies like Walmart and Starbucks, and just working myself to the bone to service them. And everybody was like, why are you doing that? And it’s like, because it’s the right thing to do. I’m giving hundreds of people jobs.
And that led those relationships over to starting Tire Diva. What I did was I took that, and I started the Women’s Empowerment Foundation three years ago, and I would bring -- I bring 75 to 100, give or take, women that come, and I want them to have that inspiration. And sometimes it’s difficult. But being here at this table gives me the inspiration to keep going, because I want to share that and make people feel empowered. You always have to work hard, so there’s no quick, easy way to do it. But if you can provide a guide, that’s where it’s at, you know?
THE PRESIDENT: Good job.
MS. POPE-WELLS: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Great enthusiasm. Good. Thank you.
MS. GIL VALLETTA: Yes, first of all, thank you so much, Ivanka. You've been a facilitator for us. I know that you, at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, have been instrumental in getting four of us Latinas around the table. So I’m proud to be one of them, and grateful for the issues and challenges that we face. I’m an immigrant from Colombia, and I came to this country with a suitcase, and a student visa, and a pocket translator -- without speaking a word of a English -- at the age of 17.
And then fast-forward, and after a successful corporate career -- I was at Johnson & Johnson for 10 years -- passion drove me to quit my corporate job, which was very comfortable. But what drove me was the shifting demographics of this country. If we are quickly becoming a majority minority nation, we have the advantage -- economic advantage -- of diversity. So what I do for a living with CIEN+, a culture (inaudible) big data analytics company, is helping the corporate leaders and Fortune 500 companies understand how to turn shifting demographics into money, into our lives, into growth.
And that’s why I’m here. I’m so delighted to share more about my journey as an immigrant. We are there, working hard, and the American Dream is real. So thank you for the opportunity to share with you, with Mr. Vice President as well, the SBA Administrator. I can’t wait to find solutions for us to work together positively forward.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Lili, very much. Thank you.
MS. PERRY: Hi, I’m Shirley Perry. I’m from Anderson, Indiana. I’m a very small environmental group engaged in environmental cleanups and environmental consulting.
I have seven employees, so I’m little. We started it 30 years ago, and then I became sole owner in 2013. And we just do what we can for the environment. We clean up around gas stations, dry cleaners. We do testing of asbestos and mold. And it’s just a good business to have, and it’s a great day to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: You've done a great job. Thank you very much.
MS. PERRY: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Linda, would you like to say something?
ADMINISTRATOR McMAHON: Well, I’m just delighted to be here this morning. And I know what it’s like for women who are often working in a male environment. Goodness knows, I can recognize that. (Laughter.)
But it’s just great to hear all of the stories from all of you, and I’m really excited to be at SBA because we do have our Women’s Business Centers. We do have those centers to help guide, to help and advise, to help them do business plans. And we have them all over the country.
So we welcome you to come in, or for people who would like to (inaudible) to our centers, who would like to be helpful in any way we can -- helping to provide more access to capital. And I think we were talking about, Amy, just sometimes you just need a little wind beneath your wings. So we're going to help provide hard information, but also a little wind beneath your wings.
So thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Linda. Great job.
ADMINISTRATOR McMAHON: Thank you, Ivanka, Dina for setting this up. I’m really pleased to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thanks so very much.
MS. FUNEGRA: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Ivanka. That feels like a second date, right? (Laughter.)
MS. TRUMP: I feel very fortunate.
MS. FUNEGRA: We got together a little more than 10 days ago through the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and I’m proud to represent immigrants and Hispanics today. I’m also an immigrant. I moved from Peru 10 years ago to work in international development for a multilateral organization here. And I also quit my job and used my savings to start La Cocina VA, which is "the kitchen." It’s an organization that provides vocational and technical education and jobs to unemployed and under-employed immigrant women, in partnership with local governments, with higher education institutions, with private sector, and help this population to start businesses.
So when Lisa mentioned how important it is to make our dreams come true, I have a unique position: I help others make their dreams come true with vocational education, empowering women to believe in the possibility of success and open businesses. So the model that we are ready to replicate now in other cities and in other communities integrates governments, integrates private sector, and all the power and resources that that represents in order to really make impactful results in our communities. And we're growing as communities. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
MS. SCANLON RABINOWITZ: Hello. My name is Suzie Scanlon Rabinowitz. I am co-founder and managing director of an alternative legal model. We have a national network of more than 20,000 well-credentialed attorneys who are immediately available to support any legal department on a full-time or part-time engagement basis.
And how we're making a difference is the legal industry has historically really been challenged in working with women on a more flexible basis and also the diversity and inclusion issues. And so my businesses are helping to allow women who are returning to the profession after leaving to raise a family or take care of an aging parent come back and work on a more flexible basis.
And also what we're doing is we provide lawyers on an engagement basis to help Fortune 500 companies. And we're able to address some of the unconscious biases that exist by promoting women and minorities in roles that typically wouldn’t go to women and minorities. And when our clients see how terrific our lawyers are, we give them permission to hire them directly. And it’s really making an impact on promoting women and minorities at the highest level.
THE PRESIDENT: That's great. Great.
MS. SCANLON RABINOWITZ: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Where are you based?
MS. SCANLON RABINOWITZ: So we're a virtual platform, but based in New York and Connecticut.
THE PRESIDENT: That's wonderful. Great job, thank you. Thanks, Suzie.
MS. SCANLON RABINOWITZ: Thank you.
MS. GIBBENS: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Dina, Ivanka, Administrator McMahon, it is an honor and pleasure to be here as part of this process.
I am Dyan Gibbens; I lead Trumbell Unmanned. We're a Houston-based, a Forbes Top 25, veteran-founded company, and we provide critical data to the energy sector. And we fly drones in challenging and austere environments.
Now, we primarily support oil and gas in environmental efforts, and we're all engineers, UV operators, and pilots. You know how you know if someone is a pilot? They’ll tell you. (Laughter.) They’ll tell you that a personal passion is promoting STEM for the next generation. And we've partnered with BP for drone camps at Rice University. We've partnered with Intel for a global STEM initiative. We hope to reach thousands -- tens of thousands with that. We've also partnered with Microsoft for an online drone academy that we hope to reach millions of people.
So my goal today is to help change this meeting and create a movement. And thank you for your time.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. That sounds fantastic. Thank you.
Okay, folks, thank you. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, the most important --
MS. JOHNSON: Good morning, Mr. President, Vice President, Ivanka --
THE PRESIDENT: Stay for Jessica.
MS. JOHNSON: Administrator McMahon, my name is Jessica Johnson-Cope. I’m the president and CEO of Johnson Security Bureau. This week, Johnson Security will celebrate its 55th anniversary. We are a third-generation, family-owned and operated security services firm based in the South Bronx of New York. And we provide security guard services, as well as armored car services to protect people, places, and valuable property across the New York metropolitan area.
And I really relate to your story. I relate to your working closely with Ivanka and working side by side because I took over my family’s business once my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. And we worked in the trenches until he passed away. And so I really respect what you two do together and hope to be able to continue our family legacy, and to help other family-owned businesses as a result of our conversation today.
THE PRESIDENT: Great job. Great job, Jessica. Thank you.
Thank you very much, everybody.
11:31 A.M. EDT