Linda McMahon and her husband took a small regional business and built it into a multinational powerhouse brand known as WWE. For non-wrestling fans, that stands for World Wrestling Entertainment, a media and entertainment company primarily known for professional wrestling.
Active in WWE from 1980 to 2009, serving as president and CEO, McMahon left the company to mount two unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate in her home state of Connecticut. In 2017, she was President Donald Trump’s pick as the administrator of the Small Business Administration. Early in her tenure, McMahon vowed to visit all 68 regional SBA offices.
Her 65th visit brought her to Harlingen, where she was welcomed by small business owner Christopher Wycoco with a bouquet of flowers. Wycoco, owner of WycoTax and recipient of a 2018 SBA Minority Business of the Year award, almost missed the opportunity. He had planned a trip to his native Philippines and told SBA Lower Rio Grande Valley District Director Angela Burton he could not be there. But then he changed his plans.
“Angela told me, ‘you are not looking at the big picture here,’” Wycoco said. “And how do you refuse Angela?”
McMahon, Burton and Wycoco sat together in the cramped WycoTax offices to discuss the importance of small businesses to the overall economy. “Small businesses are absolutely the glue that holds a community together,” McMahon said. “Just look at the back of Little League T-shirts and who do you see?”
The SBA administrator touted the work the organization does to support small businesses, from its well-known loan programs to a wide range of educational seminars, workshops and outreach events, most of them offered at no cost, something with which Wycoco enthusiastically agreed. The young entrepreneur said he attends most every SBA training opportunity that comes along, where he has learned about finances, team-building and empowerment.
“I believe in empowerments,” said Wycoco, who has opened a second office in Brownsville and has plans for diversification and expansion. “I am not building the team, the team is building the business. I look at it as a scale-up business, not a small business, with unlimited potential for growth.”
McMahon said the SBA is a place for smaller entrepreneurs to turn to for guidance on how to avoid pitfalls that can bring a business crashing down. “The reason they fail is not understanding how to manage cash flow, not investing wisely and running out of money.”
Wycoco, in what was a lively back-and-forth with McMahon, said, “It’s not how much money you make, it’s how much you invest back in your business. It’s information versus emotion. We cannot be emotionally risky.”
Despite her success with WWE, McMahon said she has had her own business failures, one which she attributed to not doing her homework. “We went bankrupt because we invested in a business we didn’t know anything about.”
McMahon recounted her and her husband’s rise to wealth as a testament to the American Dream that she believes is within reach of entrepreneurs with solid ideas and business plans, as long as they have the drive to succeed that comes from their inner passion. “Be passionate about what you do,” she said. “Do what you really love – you have to love it.”
Before leaving Harlingen, McMahon stopped at the local SBA office where she met with the staff. “We had a little round table discussion with our employees,” Burton said. “She was very interested in what they had to say and fielding questions from them.”
Since her South Texas stop, McMahon has completed her tour of the 68 SBA district offices and visit all 50 states. “When you think about all of the input she has received from small businesses, I think it’s important. I think it’s very admirable,” Burton said.
The SBA Lower Rio Grande Valley District helped small businesses obtain 129 loans totaling almost $46.5 million during fiscal year 2018, with 68 percent of those loans going to new businesses. More than 2,300 small business owners attended 128 training events, and more than 11,000 turned out for district outreach events.