“Our Nation’s small businesses define our communities, drive innovation, and create the products and services that enrich our lives and solve global problems to build a better and more sustainable world,” said President Biden in his official proclamation at the start of this past week, opening up Small Business Week and a virtual summit for business owners.
Small Business Week is typically celebrated during the first week of May each year, but this year the recognition fell from Sept. 13 through Sept. 18.
A free summit for business owners nationwide was held Sept. 13-15, and included educational webinars, free business advice, networking, and meet and greet opportunities with other business owners. It’s one of many resources the Small Business Administration offers to small businesses across the country.
However, some local businesses indicated they were not fully aware of the resources available like this free summit, business resources, and financial aid programs.
Penns Creek Pottery in Mifflinburg, Pa. said they had had never made use of the SBA opportunities, and have never heard of the opportunities available.
What they do appreciate is the nudge toward shopping at small, local businesses.
Sharon and Bill Lynch of Penns Creek Pottery are thrilled to see the community coming back out for small businesses and even more thrilled to be able to share their work with everyone again.
“It’s so important, after this last year and a half with Covid, we really believe people are tuned in to local businesses, in the last three months we’ve done really well, with people coming to support local businesses. I think local business and people are happy to get out.”
A meme that’s been trending on social media throughout the pandemic.
“By harnessing the power of our small business economy and equipping our entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to innovate, adapt, and grow, our economy will continue to build back better than ever before. America’s small businesses are up to the task,” President Biden said in his address. And regardless of political sway, most would agree that small businesses are vital.
“That’s the basis of our whole country,” said Tim Payne of Cooper’s Sporting Goods in Wellsboro. “It was built on small business.”
Although many small businesses began to see an influx in customers and support throughout the summer, some say they are starting to see a decrease again, just as when the pandemic first began to affect the country.
“I felt business was starting to increase this summer,” said Connie Harter of The Gingerbread House in Lewisburg. “I don’t know if it’s the resurgence of the number of cases or what,” that have led to a slight decrease.
Harter acknowledged the importance of small business and supporting each other as a community. “Lewisburg is a pretty small town, and people who support me, I support them.”
Recap of National Small Business Week Virtual Summit
The national virtual summit drew more than 47,000 participants, according to the SBA. Attendees heard from celebrity business owners, investors, entrepreneurs, and lead advisors from across the small business community, and connected with fellow small business owners from across the country.
The event featured a focus on resilience and recovery, offering 22 educational sessions to help participants leverage SBA services and funding as they work to recover and build back better than ever.
Although the National Small Business Week Virtual Summit has ended, content and information are still available online for anyone registered to review. Below is a recap of the main sessions:
DAY 1: NSBW kicked off with keynote welcome remarks by SBA Administrator Guzman, followed by keynote remarks by Mark Cuban and White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond.
“The American Rescue Plan has committed funding and resources to community organizations leading to serve as navigators to continue to assist those who may have not been able to benefit from early in the pandemic, the hardest hit – the underserved communities,” Richmond told viewers.
“There are two amazingly unique moments in the life of a small business owner, their first day in business, and every single day when you wake up,” said entrepreneur Mark Cuban. He went on to discuss two commonalities of success in entrepreneurship, “agility, those of us who are able to be agile; you can do really good. Equally important is communications; being able to have open communications with suppliers, employees, customers, because they are affected by the same challenges you face.”
Other sessions from the first day included a fireside chat with Administrator Guzman and restaurateur Chef José Andrés. “I always tell people I am a cook. You say you’re a chef, yeah, but cook for me is in essence what people like me do not only in America but all around the world every single day, which is making sure that one plate of food at a time; we keep our business rolling; we try to solve some of the hunger problems America and the world faces.
So in this pandemic, we saw that planning was OK, but adaptation will win the day.”
DAY 2: The day began with a session on “Access to Capital for Women Entrepreneurs” moderated by Natalie Madeira Cofield, Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership.
“We know the pandemic has created circumstances that have disproportionately impacted women-owned businesses and women entrepreneurs. Women have already experienced challenges in access to capital, and this is a much-needed conversation,” said Madeira Cofield.
The panel featured women leaders in the venture capital space, discussing the unique challenges and areas of opportunity faced by women business owners seeking access to capital.
“The strongest businesses come out of economic crisis and the best source of capital are your customers. Women-owned businesses listened to their advisors, heeding warnings, and communicated with their customers to weather the storm,” advised Sharon Vosmek, CEO Astia.
In a session on “The Importance of Black and Brown Community: Coming Together to Support Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, and Small Business Day,” Tarik Brooks, President of Combs Enterprises spoke about the importance of Black and Brown communities and the important role they play in the nation’s economic growth and future.
“Their courage, determination, and perseverance deserve to be recognized and applauded. The entrepreneurial spirit that drives these business owners will be the fuel that powers us beyond the pandemic and toward the closing of real wealth gaps that plague minority communities that were only worsened by the pandemic,” said Brooks.
“I owe my entrepreneurial spirit to my father, Carl Brooks. As a child, I watched him build and run a small business while navigating a very successful career in corporate America,” Brooks continued.
The final session of day two featured a conversation titled “Pathways to Entrepreneurship: A Fireside Chat” between Administrator Guzman and Jennifer Lopez moderated by MSNBC contributor Maria Teresa Kumar.
“I lived in underserved communities where it was kind of put in my mind like that wasn’t me. I’m not going to be a big pop star. I’m not going to have my own business. No, you can do all of those things and I think my advice then would be to never let ‘no’ stop you or never let the voices inside your head — which sometimes are bigger than the voices outside — stop you from knowing deep down that you are capable of anything that you want to accomplish in any dream that you may have, in any sector of business, or the arts or whatever, or politics, or anything,” said Lopez.
DAY 3: The day began with “Recovery Lessons from the Nation’s Entrepreneurial Coaching Network & Remarks from Entrepreneur Daymond John” and executives from SCORE, America’s Small Business Development Centers, and the Association of Women’s Business Centers joined by Associate Administrator, Office of Entrepreneurial Development Mark Madrid to discuss lessons learned, strategies for growth, and stories of business resiliency that drive economic resurgence.
SBA’s partnership network features more than 10,000 business mentors that work with owners across the country daily.
Empowering the Veteran and Military Small Business Community showcased a panel of accomplished veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs who shared how to tap into SBA’s veteran resources to start, grow, and expand your business.
“Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s National Small Business Week observance offered an important opportunity for the SBA to support veteran-owned small businesses nationwide, more than ever before,” said Larry Stubblefield, Associate Administrator for SBA’s Office of Veterans Business Development.
“At OVBD, we’re here to empower you – whether you’re a transitioning service member, veteran, National Guard, Reserve member, or military spouse – with the tools to start, grow and expand a small business. We do this by providing counseling, business training, access to capital, and government contracting opportunities at every stage of the small business journey. In the event your business is adversely affected by a disaster, the SBA has the resources to support you through the recovery process, too.”
The summit sessions concluded with Gateway to Success – attendees were provided a virtual overview of SBA field office resources available nationally to help businesses start, grow, expand and recover, with guidance on how to get connected to the powerful network of small businesses entrepreneurs locally.
National Small Business week runs through Saturday, Sept. 18.