The U.S. Small Business Administration has been facilitating more loans than ever before. Image via Getty Images

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Houston district saw a nearly 25 percent increase this year in the dollar amount of the most popular type of SBA loan compared with the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

A new report from the SBA shows small businesses in the 32-county district received $1.3 billion in 7(a) loans in fiscal 2021 compared with almost $1.05 billion in pre-pandemic 2019. Borrowers in the SBA-backed 7(a) program can obtain loans of up to $2 million. The length of each loan is 25 years for real estate deals and seven years for working capital.

“The SBA continues to make headway in helping small businesses access much-needed capital, but much more work remains to be done,” Patrick Kelley, associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Capital Access, says in a news release.

In terms of the number of 7(a) loans extended in the Houston district, the top lenders for fiscal 2021 were:

  • Wallis-based Wallis Bank
  • San Francisco-based Wells Fargo
  • Columbus, Ohio-based United Midwest Savings Bank
  • Birmingham, Alabama-based BBVA USA (now part of Pittsburgh-based PNC Bank)
  • Wilmington, North Carolina-based Live Oak Bank, the country’s most active 7(a) lender.

The top 7(a) lenders by total dollar amount of loans were:

  • Wallis Bank
  • Live Oak Bank
  • Humble-based Plains State Bank
  • San Antonio-based Frost Bank
  • Kingswood-based The Mint National Bank

The SBA’s Houston district is home to more than 600,000 small businesses in a 32-county region that includes the nine counties in the Houston metro area: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller.

Nationwide, the SBA backed $36.5 billion in 7(a) loans in fiscal 2021. Nearly $11 billion went to minority-owned businesses, $5 billion to woman-owned businesses, and $1.2 billion to veteran-owned businesses.

SBA lending could experience an uptick in fiscal 2021 due to inflation. An October 2021 survey conducted for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife found 45 percent of small businesses had taken out loans to cope with rising inflation; among retailers, that figure was 58 percent. In the survey, 74 percent of small business owners expressed concern about inflation.

“Small business owners’ optimism is plowing through economic uncertainty, but they now face new obstacles with rising inflation, labor shortages, and supply chain challenges,” Tom Sullivan, vice president for small business policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says in a news release.

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Houston biopharma company launches equity crowdfunding campaign

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A clinical-stage company headquartered in Houston has opened an online funding campaign.

FibroBiologics, which is developing fibroblast cell-based therapeutics for chronic diseases, launched a campaign with equity crowdfunding platform StartEngine. The platform lets anyone — regardless of their net worth or income level — to invest in securities issued by startups.

The funding, according to a press release, will be used to support ongoing operations of Fibrobiologics and advance its clinical programs in multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease, wound care, extension of life, and cancer.

"We're excited to partner with StartEngine on this campaign. StartEngine has over 600,000 investors as part of their community and has raised over half a billion dollars for its clients," says FibroBiologics' Founder and CEO Pete O'Heeron, in the release.

"This is an exciting time at FibroBiologics as we continue progressing our clinical pipeline and developing innovative therapies to treat chronic diseases," he continues. "This new funding will fuel our growth in the lab and bring us one step closer to commercialization."

The campaign, launched this week, already has over 100 investors, at the time of publication, and has raised nearly $2 million, according to the page. The minimum investment is set at around $500, and the company's indicated valuation is $252.57 million.

In 2021, FibroBiologics announced its intention of going public. Last year, O'Heeron told InnovationMap on the Houston Innovators Podcast of the company's growth plans as well as the specifics of the technology.

Only two types of cells — stem cells and fibroblasts — can be used in cell therapy for a regenerative treatment, which is when specialists take healthy cells from a patient and inject them into a part of the body that needs it the most. As O'Heeron explains in the podcast, fibroblasts can do it more effectively and cheaper than stem cells.

"(Fibroblasts) can essentially do everything a stem cell can do, only they can do it better," says O'Heeron. "We've done tests in the lab and we've seen them outperform stem cells by a low of 50 percent to a high of about 220 percent on different disease paths."


Texas ranks as a top state for female entrepreneurs

women in business

Texas dropped three spots in Merchant Maverick’s annual ranking of the top 10 states for women-led startups.

The Lone Star State landed at No. 5 thanks in part to its robust venture capital environment for women entrepreneurs. Last year, Texas ranked second, up from its No. 6 showing in 2021.

Merchant Maverick, a product comparison site for small businesses, says Texas “boasts the strongest venture capital scene” for women entrepreneurs outside California and the Northeast. The state ranked fourth in that category, with $6.5 billion invested in the past five years.

Other factors favoring Texas include:

  • Women solely lead 22 percent of all employees working for a business in Texas (No. 4).
  • Texas lacks a state income tax (tied for No. 1).

However, Texas didn’t fare well in terms of the unemployment rate (No. 36) and the rate of business ownership by women (No. 29). Other Texas data includes:

  • Average income for women business owners, $52,059 (No. 19).
  • Early startup survival rate, 81.9 percent (No. 18).

Appearing ahead of Texas in the 2023 ranking are No. 1 Colorado, No. 2 Washington, No. 3 California, and No. 4 Arizona.

Another recent ranking, this one from NorthOne, an online bank catering to small businesses, puts Texas at No. 7 among the 10 best states for women entrepreneurs.

NorthOne says Texas provides “a ton of opportunities” for woman entrepreneurs. For instance, it notches one of the highest numbers of women-owned businesses in the country at 1.4 million, 2.1 percent of which have at least 500 employees.

In this study, Texas is preceded by Colorado at No. 1, Nevada at No. 2, Virginia at No. 3, Maryland at No. 4, Florida at No. 5, and New Mexico at No. 6. The rankings are based on eight metrics, including the percentage of woman-owned businesses and the percentage of women-owned businesses with at least 500 employees.