Elliot Richardson: The pandemic devastated many small businesses and the speed by which vibrant businesses were suddenly shuttered was stunning. Small-business owners and entrepreneurs had to scramble, navigating PPP and other governmental relief programs during a remarkably uncertain time. The resilience of the small-business community was inspiring. Small-business owners approached the pandemic with the same grit and determination that defines entrepreneurs.
Emily Drake: Grit and determination—indeed, two must-haves this past year. What’s the mood among small-business owners these days? Optimistic? Entrepreneurial? Cautious?
ER: They seem cautiously optimistic, given these uncertain times. Many are still struggling to recover from the pandemic, and an emerging challenge for small businesses is the inability to hire qualified employees. That being said, the pandemic prompted many aspiring entrepreneurs to start businesses. While a post-pandemic economy presents significant challenges for some business owners, it offers opportunities for others. Our economy is different and small-business owners are continuing to adapt to the changing landscape.
TC: Part of what your organization does is advocate for legislative action. Government has a role to play, presumably, in supporting small businesses. What point of view has the SBAC staked out? What are your members asking for?
ER: The SBAC believes the small-business community must have the opportunity to shape new programs being launched to support struggling small businesses through the American Rescue Plan Act. Giving small-business owners and advocates a seat at the table, as policies are being designed and implemented, will ensure those policies are best tailored to provide them relief. We are also focused on passing legislation and establishing programs that provide incentives to small businesses that retrain and hire new employees. There are many more advocacy initiatives we are working on, from property tax to occupational licensing reform. There has never been a more important time to advocate for the small-business community.
ED: Any forecast on the future? Or advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
ER: It seems things are in a constant state of flux, given the unpredictable nature of the pandemic. My advice for entrepreneurs and small-business owners is to stay connected and engaged. Get involved in organizations that will advocate for your interests and update you on important developments that may affect your business. Critical mass makes a difference and by coming together, the small business community can make a huge impact.