Former Region II SBA chief Jorge Silva-Puras continues his storied career teaching entrepreneurship classes
From his youth on, Jorge Silva-Puras has been exposed to small business. He remembers working with his mother in her flower shop in their native San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he would help her make deliveries, keep the books and perform other tasks. That small business experience was coupled with an exposure to the law and banking from his father.
The combination helped launch a successful career for Silva-Puras, who until recently headed Region II of the Small Business Administration (SBA). The region, which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, is home to approximately 2.7 million small businesses. Given that number, that concentration of businesses plus the fact that it spans one of the most diverse parts of the country, this gave me particularly beneficial exposure to a very diverse population, he says.
Queens, for example, has representatives from more than 140 countries and languages. Many of these business owners and aspiring business owners are new immigrants. I would say that has probably been the highlight of my position as regional administrator since a big part of my job was outreach, to increase awareness of the services provided by the SBA, he explains.
Now at the age of 46, Silva-Puras is embarking on a new endeavor to fulfill another lifelong dream as a Distinguished Lecturer at the predominantly Hispanic Hostos Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY), where he teaches classes like international business and entrepreneurship.
Students have shown a strong interest in learning to run a business. Many of them dont realize that it is feasible to start their own businesses and be their own boss. There are tools available that can help most people become entrepreneurs if they so desire, he says. Helping them in this way has been impactful for Silva-Puras.
For me, also, its an opportunity to give back, he explains. Ive been very fortunate and blessed in terms of opportunities for education and working experiences and I think its time to give back and this will allow me to do so.
Education is something he values greatly. Educated in Catholic schools in Puerto Rico, he left the island to attend Yale University, where he studied economics and political science. Upon graduating, he decided to go back home to study law at the University of Puerto Rico.
With his JD degree in hand, Silva-Puras worked for a large corporate firm for three years handling corporate litigation. I very slowly realized that it was a more fun to be on the client side of the table versus being on the lawyer side, he laughs.