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Beto Yarce wants to be the 'friendly voice and face' of the Small Business Administration

A portrait of Beto Yarce, wearing a blue sports coat and blue dress shirt
Emil Moffatt
Beto Yarce, a Seattle entreprenuer and small business advocate was recently named administrator for Region 10 of the Small Business Administration, covering the Pacific Northwest.

Beto Yarce remembers the relief that swept over him earlier this year when he knew he’d landed what he describes as his “dream job” – leading the Small Business Administration in the Pacific Northwest.

“When the final process and the offer letter and all these things were official, I was like, 'wow',” Yarce recalled. “And I was talking with my family and everybody was super proud of like, look how far we got.”

That journey began when Yarce came to the Puget Sound region from Mexico two decades ago, just out of college. He said he came to the U.S. partially for the economic opportunities, but also to find community as a gay man, something he said was difficult in Mexico. When he got to Seattle he started waiting tables while also selling jewelry at the Fremont Sunday Market. He later opened his own shop at Pike Place Market and things took off.

“So I was able to quit my job as a worker in the hospitality service," Yarce said. “At that time, my business was blooming and growing, at that time, I already had a store, and a couple wholesale accounts.”

Yarce’s experience with the Small Business Administration started years before he got the new job leading the SBA in the Pacific Northwest. At first it was as an entrepreneur, navigating complex application processes for SBA programs in a language that were only available, at the time, in English.

Then he helped others do the same as CEO of Ventures. It’s a nonprofit that provides training and access to capital for small businesses - especially those run by people of color and women. Census data show only 15% of small businesses in Washington are minority owned; a little less than half of all Washington small businesses are owned by women.

“It’s been fascinating to see, and be part of it,” Yarce said. “And now that I’m inside [the SBA] I’m super excited to come through it.”

Interview Highlights

On why he became an advocate for small businesses

I think I will always talk about my mother. My mom is super generous. So she always taught us, 'how do we help others?' Right? So how do we share the knowledge or food or clothing? She's an amazing, generous woman. So for me, it was like, 'how can I support others? How do I share my story with others?’ Because if I was able to do it, I think others can learn from me. So I started volunteering for an organization called Casa Latina, which helps undocumented workers, to place them in jobs. And some of them wanted to start their own business. And from that, I kind of put together a little PowerPoint and a class.

On making the Small Business Administration more accessible

The Biden-Harris administration is really focusing on equity, which is very close to my heart. What does equity look like? How do we bring resources to those communities? So for me, one of my priorities is to start with outreach, simple outreach. Because multiple times the communities that we serve, they don't trust the government, or they feel like ‘what is there for me?’ And I want to be that friendly voice and face to see, ‘I look like you. I was there.’ And the government offers really good programs.

On the state of small business in the Puget Sound region

Through the pandemic, I was still leading Ventures and I [saw] many of the businesses that we helped to incubate and support closing or were about to close. And we were trying to do our best to get grants and funding and support them with PPPs or other funding that was more flexible. And I think we did a great job, I think SBA did a great job. I mean it was not perfect, but it was hard to be... nobody [can] predict a pandemic.

I think we're coming out of that and I see with the Biden administration, the boom of business and how the agenda 'Investing in America' is helping to build, again, small business. It's historic, the number of new applications for a small business are increasing and growing. It was challenging, and we see many businesses closing, and we're still seeing it. We see downtown Seattle, and people say what's going on? But I also see opportunity.

Emil Moffatt joined KNKX in October 2022 as All Things Considered host/reporter. He came to the Puget Sound area from Atlanta where he covered the state legislature, the 2021 World Series and most recently, business and technology as a reporter for WABE. Contact him at