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Michael Vallante

Michael Vallante

published on March 28, 2019 - 12:22 PM
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Only through listening can we bring about real change that empowers businesses and entrepreneurs to make their neighborhoods better.  That is why U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Linda McMahon launched the “SBA Ignite Tour,” her nationwide initiative to visit every SBA district office, to meet with businesses and entrepreneurs in all 50 states, and to hear how the SBA can better serve them locally.

Heartbeat Boxing, a Fresno business that received an SBA loan to open its doors, welcomed Administrator McMahon during one of her first Ignite Tour visits in 2017.  While listening to husband and wife Lourdes and Gilbert Ruiz talk about the challenges they faced in opening their business, we were touched to learn about the philanthropic work that they weaved into their business.

Driven by the passion to help victims of domestic violence in honor of Ruby Ruiz, Gilbert’s sister who was killed by her husband at age 21, the gym offers free weekly self-defense classes that focus on teaching women to get out of dangerous situations.

Being in the community, we see the positive impacts small businesses make in their neighborhoods. That only happens when they are able to focus on their businesses and customers and not be overly burdened by complicated bureaucracy. 

Since launching the Ignite Tour in 2017, Administrator McMahon has taken back to Washington, D.C., what she’s heard from her visits. She has advocated for efforts to support local business, cut regulations and provide incentives for job creation.

While checking on Heartbeat Boxing recently, I was excited to learn that the business is flourishing and the owners have high optimism about their future.  The philanthropic side of the business, Ruby’s Ring Foundation, has provided free self-defense classes to more than 8,000 women and awarded a scholastic scholarship to its third recipient.  Heartbeat Boxing has become a focal point of the community and is quickly becoming nationally recognized, visited and used for training by professional and amateur boxers and wrestlers.

The Ruizes plan to expand to an additional 10,000 square-foot space where they can house a full-size boxing ring, expand its existing equipment area, and integrate a new retail space and food kitchen.

This type of optimism and business expansion is happening all over our region and nation.

I invite local entrepreneurs to learn about the many SBA services available to help them start, grow and expand businesses of their own.


Michael Vallante, Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Region IX. He oversees the agency’s programs and services in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam.


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