National Small Business Week!
Will von Geldern

May 2, 2018

This week is a unique opportunity for us to celebrate our entrepreneurs and everything that they bring to their communities. At Ventures, we focus on the microbusiness owners that continue to innovate and lead in their communities despite the unique challenges they face. We spend a lot of time thinking about how we can create opportunities for the community to support microbusiness owners – whether by shopping at the Ventures Marketplace, volunteering with Ventures, or advocating for microbusiness.

Why should you focus on supporting microbusiness this Small Business Week?

Not only do these businesses provide unique products and services, but they are a fundamentally important part of our communities and our economy.

Did you know that microbusinesses represent more than 85% of all businesses in Washington State and creates hundreds of thousands of jobs? Microenterprise development has long been a critical part of a strong local economy – and right now, supporting entrepreneurship and creating opportunities for self-employment is more important than ever.

Many of us know that economic inequality has gotten worse in recent years. The gap between high earners and low-income Americans continues to widen, but microbusiness development can be a useful means of empowering skilled, hard-working individuals in underserved communities. Research shows that high poverty zip codes have 32 percent fewer microbusinesses per capita than the wealthiest zip codes – just imagine the opportunities for local economic development if we could close that gap.

Microbusiness can also be a useful tool for workers to achieve economic stability and social mobility in the age of the “gig economy.” With the right support, low-income workers can increase their incomes and build wealth for their families by leveraging their unique skills as small business owners. America’s workforce now includes 41 million “independent workers,” and as this number continues to grow we must develop solutions that allow these workers to thrive and compete in today’s complex and ever-changing economy.

Beyond these trends, however, we must understand that supporting microbusinesses in our community is about the human impact. We cannot forget that microenterprise development can be life-changing for our entrepreneurs – the vast majority of whom are women, people of color, and immigrants.

Locally, we have seen some acknowledgement of the fact that microbusiness development can play an important role in addressing our economic challenges. The City of Seattle recently announced funding for organizations in our city that provide technical assistance for microbusiness owners, and the city’s Office of Labor Standards is working with nonprofits across the city to help entrepreneurs better understand recent changes in the minimum wage and employment policies. The state legislature also recently reauthorized funding for the Washington State Microenterprise Association, a statewide body that supports microbusiness development in communities across the state and builds connections between rural and urban economies.

Now, we are asking our federal representatives to step up, too. The Trump administration has proposed historic cuts to critical community and economic development programs, including SBA programs like the Microloan program.

Cuts to these programs could mean that future entrepreneurs cannot access the capital and technical assistance that they need to grow and compete. The SBA itself has reported that there are also significant racial disparities in business ownership and access to capital, and cutting the already limited pool of funds even further would exacerbate existing inequality.

And that is why we are calling on our leaders to prevent the proposed cuts to small business development programs. We have written letters, made calls, and will continue to advocate in every way that we can.

In May, we are joining our friends at NALCAB and other leaders from around the country in Washington D.C. to ask our representatives to stop cutting programs that help our entrepreneurs grow their businesses, increase their families’ incomes, and create jobs in their communities. We will keep you updated as our campaign continues leading up to the federal budget deadline this fall.

This Small Business Week, please join us in supporting microbusiness owners in our community and across the U.S. Join us at the Ventures Marketplace, or dive deeper by volunteering or learning more about our advocacy program. Together, we can show that microbusiness can be a key driver for local economic growth – our entrepreneurs, our communities, and our economy depend on it.