If you pay close attention to the calendar, you’re probably aware that nearly every date has been claimed by one or more microholiday — quasi-official celebrations that include everything from International Talk Like a Pirate Day to National Margarita Day. I’m more than happy to observe either, but I do worry that these events distract from more meaty programming designed to call attention to important issues. To pick a timely example: Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).
For those not aware, GEW 2021 runs through November 14 and includes 40,000 activities all designed to remove barriers and welcome all to the world of small business ownership. The idea started back in 2008 and has grown into a truly global program that spans 140 countries. Corporations like FedEx and Mastercard are marquee sponsors, and President Joe Biden has recently thrown his weight behind the concept by declaring November National Entrepreneurship Month.
I’m also focused on how we fan the flames of our collective enthusiasm. Working together, what starts this week and month could snowball into a systemic change that elevates the possibilities for entrepreneurs forever. In fact, if all goes well, I predict that 2022 will go down in history as the year of small business.
Here are three tactical areas we can all focus on to make that happen:
Commit to small business spending every week
The health of Main Street reflects the health of our communities, with small businesses generating 67 percent of net new jobs. As we plan our spending as individuals and organizations, we must remember the positive ripple effects of keeping our dollars local.
Corporations and government leaders can commit to spending more on small business. Award contracts to someone local, and advertise your supplier diversity programs far and wide.
Going into the holiday shopping season, consumers have a role to play, too. Deloitte predicts the average household will spend $1,463 this year — what if we all committed to spending just 25 percent of that total at local businesses?
These decisions add up, and many small changes can have a huge impact. If corporations, government leaders, and consumers can reallocate even a portion of their spending toward Main Street, we’re talking about a redirection of trillions of dollars. That money goes straight to small business owners and their employees, creating a broader distribution of wealth and a more robust economic environment for all.
Fight for equitable access to capital
We’re only going to grow the ranks of small business over time if owners get the funds necessary to succeed. That’s never going to happen if women continue to be twice as likely as men to be rejected for a small business loan, and three-quarters of loans are still made to white owners. New Majority owners face similar challenges accessing credit cards, an indispensable tool for businesses that need a short-term boost to their cash flow.
Progress on these issues starts with a few macro-level solutions. I’m excited to see that President Biden enact the State Small Business Credit Initiative as part of the American Rescue Plan, which will set up new small business loan and venture capital programs in each state. We must also work to ensure equitable access to credit for all 30.2 million small business owners in this country by creating innovative credit products, perhaps in the form of a secured card for owners that don’t qualify for a traditional credit card.
I believe in a “more is more” approach to how we fund small businesses in this country. The pandemic showed us once and for all that these owners are the people our country depends on to lead our service economy, connect our communities, and fuel opportunity for all. This year, it’s time to start offering solutions to their challenges, not band-aids.
But first: get owners money now
Systemic change admittedly takes time, so we need to find ways to address owners’ number one business challenge — access to capital — in the short term.
While business leaders advocate for systemic solutions, I encourage entrepreneurs to apply for grants. My company is hosting a $5,000 opportunity to help owners start 2022 off right, and there are lots of other options from LegalZoom, National Geographic, and likely your local government (here’s a great opportunity for owners in Chicago).
These opportunities for what’s essentially free money can be the fuel small business owners need to hit the ground running come January. With the right amount of momentum and the helping hands of their community, I have no doubt that we can make 2022 the year of small business.