New Midwest Small Business Finance Loan Officer Likes Challenge

Karina Guzman has a lot of goals, and one the biggest is helping area small businesses grow and expand.

As the new loan officer for Midwest Small Business Finance (MSBF), Guzman is mastering the complex world of SBA and other loans administered by the Northland non-profit. A former commercial loan processor for a Blue Springs bank, she comes well equipped in several ways, including one that may be a surprise: Guzman, her two sons and most of her extended family are involved in jiu-jitsu, which helps with challenges whether they’re behind a desk or in competition.

“It’s physically and mentally challenging,” she explained. “It’s like a puzzle. I’ve eventually learned to put some of the pieces together. But it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done.”

It even helps with her work. “Every loan application presents unique challenges, and finding creative solutions to help businesses overcome obstacles is both challenging and fulfilling,” she added.

Business Applications

Since joining MSBF in June, she’s found that being able to “put pieces together” is a good skill to have. 

“The paperwork for SBA is pretty intense, but that’s a lot of what we do for our borrowers,” she explained. “We can’t eliminate all of it, but we make it as straightforward as possible.”

More importantly, the SBA 504 Loan program offers something that’s simply unbeatable today: long-term, fixed rate capital for small business growth and expansion. “You just can’t find that anymore other than this loan,” she said. “It’s just a better option. If you can lock that in now, it’s extremely beneficial.” MSBF also administers two revolving fund loans, including a revolving fund operated directly by the organization.

MSBF was founded as a non-profit in 1982 by the Clay County Economic Development Council (EDC) with the goal of growing the economy and creating jobs, not making a profit from interest rates or service fees. 

“Facilitating business growth also has a broader economic impact, creating jobs and fostering local development,” Guzman explained. “Helping small businesses thrive can lead to stronger communities and better living standards for local residents.”

The program is surprisingly simple. Under 504 regulations, the small-business borrower puts up 10 percent while the bank puts up 50 percent. The remaining 40 percent is provided by the SBA through organizations like MSBF. 

Another advantage is that the bank retains a favored position that makes it more attractive for the bank by reducing risk – meaning they’re far more likely to approve their portion of the loan with a largely untried small business.

Hitting the Ground Running

Guzman credits her predecessor Ethen Pineda with getting her up to speed and learning critical details on all of this. Her first weeks were spent shadowing him during visits with borrowers and, yes, processing that “dreaded” loan paperwork. This also increased her respect for those starting or growing small businesses, including a woman who had finally found a practical location for her new business.

“Small business owners have dreams that we can help bring to reality,” she said. “Knowing that our expertise directly benefits others can bring a sense of personal satisfaction and purpose to our work.”

Another part of her work involves networking, including the weekly Coffee Connect held at iWerx in North Kansas City and at small businesses throughout the Northland.

“The owners we visit give tours of their operations and talk about how they’ve succeeded, their challenges and more,” she noted. “Those are great opportunities. It allows us to form meaningful connections and be a part of their journey.”

Originally from Kansas City, Guzman moved to Blue Springs in part to be near her three brothers and their families, who remain close. The move also included her “very lively” sons, Mason, 10, and Anthony, 8.

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