MasterCard Biz Contributors Go to Congress!
Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business met for a hearing “Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Learning from the Experts.”
On the heels of National Small Business Week highlighting “how crucial small businesses are to our nation’s prosperity and economic security,” the Committee welcomed four small business experts to share the lessons they’ve learned advocating for small businesses.
MasterCard Biz is proud that two of the four small business experts who testified—Ramon Ray and Susan Solovic—are regular contributors to MasterCard Biz. We wish hearty congratulations on this honor to Susan and Ramon, as well as to the other two contributors, JJ Ramberg and Melinda Emerson.
“These witnesses have seen first-hand the struggles and triumphs of small businesses, and will be able to testify regarding common challenges impacting small businesses today, and how these trends may have changed over time,” the hearing memo stated. Below are excerpts from the testimony each expert gave:
Ramon Ray, Editor, Smart Hustle Magazine:
“Based on input from the small business community I represent, there are three things our government, this Committee, can do for small business owners.
First, continued reduction of burdensome and unnecessary regulation—at the federal, state and local level. We need regulation for our safety, but we do not need burdensome or unnecessary regulation. The horrendous treatment of Uber (now a large company) is the most public example of regulation gone wrong—stifling innovation and limiting growth.
Second, reduction and simplification of taxes—I count it a privilege that I can pay taxes, from my hard-earned income, to fund our government operations. However, is there not a limit to what tax rates and tax laws are fair versus which ones are excessive and burdensome? Every year I pay thousands of dollars in taxes; I would rather reduce the taxes I pay and instead use those funds to grow my business, invest in my community, and thus invest in the growth of America.
Third, foster small business education—“smart hustle.” I applaud the great work of the Small Business Administration, SCORE, SBDCS’s and other government supported organizations who support and educate small business owners. The more we invest in the education of small business owners the more we ensure businesses succeed and not fail.”
Read Ramon Ray’s full testimony here.
Susan Solovic, THE Small Business Expert & Advocate:
“Small businesses are struggling in the U.S.—as I’m sure you’re aware. The number of small business closures is outpacing startups for the first time in 30 years. According to the Capital One Spark Business Barometer, small business confidence has dropped nearly 10 points since the same time last year.
However, there are bright spots for small businesses. Thanks to technology, the barriers to entry are greatly reduced compared to when I started my first business decades ago. Resources rest at your fingertips to help you do everything from establishing your legal entity to learning how to manage and grow your business. Additionally, cloud-based solutions give small firms the ability to access sophisticated software solutions affordably, allowing them to compete more effectively with bigger companies. And, technology allows small businesses to do business around the globe from their garage or spare bedroom.
Yet even with these developments, startup founders who begin with passion and a sparkle in their eye now tell me their business dream has turned into a nightmare. However, we know many great companies have launched in the midst of difficult economic eras and have risen to the top echelons of business, so I encourage small businesses to focus on what they can control, rather than external pressures they can’t control. In other words, don’t point fingers and place blame. Focus on building a great company that brings true value to the market.”
Read Susan Solovic’s full testimony here.
JJ Ramberg, Host, MSNBC “Your Business” and founder of Goodshop.com:
“We are at an exciting time for small businesses. Yet it is still a struggle for many. Over the past few years, we have done a series on Your Business on Main Streets across the country where we have profiled cities including Natchez, Mississippi; Brundidge, Alabama; Golden, Colorado; Daytona Florida; Galena, IL; Woodstock, NY and many others. Through these stories, I have found a few consistent themes:
1. Many of the Main Streets which were thriving were doing so because one individual or one organization led the revitalization. This included discovering and applying for grants to pay for improvements (like street lights and repaving sidewalks), organizing local businesses to work together to plan events, and working with the local government to help boost excitement amongst consumers. To have more success on Main Street, it’s important to identify and support these champions.
2. In spite of the work of this committee and the Small Business Administration, many business owners on Main Street do not feel like anyone in government is watching out for them. While they hear elected officials and members of the government in Washington speak of supporting small business, many business owners do not feel like they are seeing much action around that support. There is an issue around communication of improvements. More business owners need to know of the work you are doing here and learn how to take advantage of the resources provided by the federal government to help them grow their companies.
3. While a lot of attention is paid to federal regulations, there is less focus on local and state regulations. Many small business owners—both on and off Main Street—cite these as challenging because it is difficult to keep track of everything.
In addition, both on and off Main Street, we have heard a common refrain: difficulty finding affordable funding to expand, a challenge around recruiting top notch employees and a sense of loneliness and lack of community to help with business issues.
Read JJ Ramberg’s full testimony here.
Melinda Emerson, “SmallBizLady,” Founder and CEO, Quintessence Group and Melinda F. Emerson Foundation:
“My biggest concern about what efforts the government, SBA, and MBDA are doing is only focusing all the efforts on finding the next Facebook or tech startup and that is a dangerous precedent. 95 percent of all small businesses in the world will never gross one million in revenue. We need programs that bolster Main Street businesses.
There are four things businesses need: access to capital, mentorship, training, and networking. This is especially true for women and minorities. We need access to networks, industry decision makers, and market leaders—especially those in non-tech industries, that are not exposed to leaders outside of their typical networks and this limits their ability to scale. We just don’t have the mentorship or sponsorship relationships to build traction in our businesses and meet equity investors. They need that patient money that an equity investor could provide….”
“….Despite all of the challenges, being a small business owner is still the greatest reward in business. We live how most people won’t so that we can live how most people can’t. Now is still an amazing time to launch a business, and no matter who you are, the world is still waiting on a better mousetrap. My favorite advice to give small businesses is, ‘You never lose in business either you win or you learn.'”
Read Melinda Emerson’s full testimony here.