Small Business Majority Blog

Small Business Matters

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For a road-based state like New Jersey, potholes can be a driver’s worst nightmare. That’s where Tathiana Carrasco comes in. Fed up with seeing the same locations riddled with unrepaired and reemerging potholes, Carrasco set out to fill those pesky holes once and for all.

“While working for BMW, I was surprised by the number of claims being made for damaged wheels and tires. I looked into the causes a bit further and came to realize how big of a problem potholes are,” Carrasco said.

While doing a bit of investigative work, she noticed the same locations popping up over and over again on the claims she processed, and an idea sparked to remedy those potholes with some actual finality. This was the genesis for her business Appliqué Technologies International.

With a patent-pending special material for pothole repair that is heated on the spot and compacted, Appliqué sets out to fill potholes once and only once. Their brand of filling is reinforced with ballistic fibers and two types of waxes – the fibers act as reinforcement agents while the waxes melt to create a permanent bond with the bottom of the pothole.

“I wanted to address an old problem in a new way, one that worked and made sense for all involved,” she said.

Going against the established method of things can be both a tricky and time-draining pursuit. And for a nascent business owner, time was one thing Carrasco couldn’t afford.

“In a business like this, it takes time to change the way people do things. The longer it takes to convince a market that you have something they should consider, the longer you have to fund the business. People often greatly underestimate this aspect of starting a business.”

As a Latina entrepreneur, Carrasco already stuck out in a male-dominated field, but this also allowed her to pave out a unique spot for herself in the marketplace.

“I think to be an entrepreneur, especially a woman Latina, you need to be both aware of the opportunities and ignorant of the challenges. In my case, I am a woman running a business in an industry dominated by men.”

That alternative perspective has helped Appliqué rise above its many competitors and allowed it to tackle New Jersey’s potholes through an experimentation process that challenges the status quo of her industry.

“We are innovators and strive to bring new and beneficial materials and equipment to those who take care of our roads. [Manufacturing both our materials and equipment] allows us to optimize the way one works with the other.”

Carrasco notes there are 565 New Jersey municipalities she wishes to serve and repair roads for, hoping to perfect Appliqué’s technique before rushing it out to a wider market. Because at the end of the day, customer satisfaction is what matters most to Carrasco.

“I love the challenge as well as the satisfaction of seeing something grow from a concept to a reality. Then to see people actually validate our ideas by spending hard-earned money on our solutions is very gratifying.”

View from Pastry

Combining the favored adult beverages of the morning and evening, Slipstream blends together crafted coffee and libations to create a unique, trendy bar going experience in Washington, D.C.

Owners Miranda Mirabella and Ryan Fleming were inspired by the specialty coffee scene while living together in San Francisco. As the quality of coffee continued to rise, they realized they lacked a sufficient means of truly exploring and learning about what tickled their palettes.

Fleming came from a family of small business owners, and his interest in the story around craft coffee and cocktails sparked his inner entrepreneurial bug. Mirabella was instilled with a passion and love for food and quality ingredients at a young age from her Italian grandmother. This combination, much like the one of coffee and spirits that has been such a success for Slipstream, paid off in spades.

“Our focus is taking coffee from a commodity to something unique and special,” Mirabella said. “We felt people would appreciate the opportunity to explore the flavors and nuances of coffee and cocktails, and learn what they liked and why they like those particular flavors.”

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Slipstream became the physical embodiment of that – a small, locally owned business that has the feel of a tastemaker hotspot while remaining accessible. It’s a comfortable environment where people can learn and develop their tastes around the complex flavors and attributes of coffee and spirits.

“A slipstream is the area of reduced resistance behind a moving object, and similarly our café hopes to provide a smooth path for the coffee and cocktail experience.”

It’s a risky venture for sure, and one that didn’t come without its unique set of challenges.

“One of the more difficult things about our concept is that we are pushing coffee service beyond what people are use to from existing shops. Our vision for true baristas behind a bar lent itself naturally towards also having spirits. There is so much to explore when the two worlds collide.”

Newcomers have three options when visiting Slipstream to find what sort of coffee experience speaks to them. The menu allows for the ability to try any of their single origin coffees three ways: filtered, espresso or espresso with milk. Beyond that, the menu is constantly in flux to try to stay ahead of the trend.

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“Our baristas and bartenders are constantly researching and trying new coffees, spirits and house-made pairings. We make it a collaborative process so that every member of our team has influence over our menu.” Currently, people are flocking in to try their nitro infused iced coffee, Mirabella thrillingly notes.

“We are truly grateful for every single person that walks in our door. And when someone really appreciates the concept and wants to spend time chatting with us and our team, it really makes it worth it.”

The idea behind Slipstream is actually rife with opportunity. Just think of how many people wake up to a cup of coffee or enjoy any number of occasions with a cocktail in hand. Slipstream is a crafty small business making sure that people want to both start and end their days with them.

Small Business Majority CEO John Arensmeyer

Small Business Majority CEO John Arensmeyer

We’re pleased the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s provision that allows consumers in states with federally-run health insurance marketplaces to receive federal tax credits to help offset the cost of insurance.

The Supreme Court’s decision protects the millions of small business owners, employees and self-employed freelance entrepreneurs from losing the valuable health insurance they have secured in the past 18 months. Moreover, eliminating the credits would have led to a return of “job lock,” which shackled many would-be entrepreneurs to jobs working for others rather than starting their own businesses. Employment and access to affordable health insurance historically have been tightly linked. That linkage pressures individuals to seek out and remain in jobs that provide affordable health insurance, even if they would otherwise choose to start their own business or pursue a more attractive job opportunity with a growing small business.

If the Supreme Court had eliminated these tax credits in states with federally-facilitated marketplaces, an estimated 9.6 million people who bought insurance through HealthCare.gov would have lost their subsidies, according to the RAND Corporation. What’s more, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found 1.5 million people will launch their own business and become self-employed because of provisions in the Affordable Care Act that will make purchasing insurance on the open market more accessible. The opportunity for these millions of people to strike out on their own could have been eliminated if the Court had removed the subsidies from federally-run marketplaces.

The health insurance marketplaces are the most important component of the Affordable Care Act for entrepreneurs, and it’s critical they are kept as robust as possible. We’re glad the Supreme Court has upheld this provision that is crucial to the success of the health insurance marketplaces and to our nation’s entrepreneurs.

grasspops4One D.C. entrepreneur made the rare decision to forfeit her high-paying career at a law firm and embrace her creative side by going into the kitchen and whipping up cake pops. That daring leap led Yael Krigman to open the area’s first-ever store dedicated to cake pops, a cakepoppery called Baked by Yael.

As a buttoned-up law firm associate, Krigman’s desire for a more lighthearted work environment began when she started a tradition known as “Monday Treats,” where she would bring in baked goods she made from scratch to counteract the doldrums of her office environment.

“I eventually reached a point where I had to make a choice between a secure, high-paying job and a business venture with tremendous risks, but also potential for tremendous gain, both in profit and happiness,” Krigman recalled.

It ended up being a no-brainer – Krigman quit the firm, and Baked by Yael was born. Case closed.

“Being a lawyer was very adversarial,” she said. “We were always opposing someone or something. Now my job is to add sweetness to people’s lives.”

Krigman started out marketing and selling her cake pops online, but without a storefront, she found it difficult to take Baked by Yael to the next level. She began a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013, raising nearly $75,000, which, along with some loan assistance, enabled Baked by Yael to transition from an online retailer to a brick and mortar business, starting with a kiosk at the Annapolis Mall.

Krigman cited that first move as a pivotal juncture to interacting more with her customers.

“I learned that people were excited about the idea of cake on a stick. It was something that appealed to the growing group of consumers who didn’t want to eat a whole cupcake or slice of cake,” she said.

Krigman opened her first storefront in January this year across the street from the National Zoo. Now with an actual store to call her own, Krigman’s connection with her customers has only deepened.

“The most rewarding part of my business is making my customers happy. Through Baked by Yael, I’ve been part of bar mitzvahs, graduations, baby showers and birthdays.”

Despite the limited resources she faces as a small business owner, there are two things Krigman refuses to skimp on: her employees and her ingredients. She starts all of her employees at a salary above D.C.’s minimum wage, and while this results in higher payroll expenses, Krigman believes this is crucial to her business.

“It’s important to me that I treat my employees well. I respect them and I value them. While a more prudent approach fiscally might be to use the cheapest ingredients possible and pay my staff no more than the minimum wage, I’m not willing to do this.”

While she remains focused on keeping D.C.’s first cakepoppery stable and profitable, Krigman is just thrilled to be rolling cake pops, cultivating a family-like workforce and providing a little pop of happiness into the lives of her customers.

“After four years as an online bakery, it’s a real treat to be able to meet my customers in person and watch them enjoy our cake pops and other baked goods. That moment when they take their first bite, when their eyes close and they sigh, is such a joy to witness.”

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With a keen eye for alluring design and a mission to showcase and honor the one-of-a-kind flair of different local communities, Designing Local is a consulting firm that seeks to bring the inner-beauty of a given locale to the forefront.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Designing Local is celebrating a big milestone – one year in business of bringing pride, legacy and prosperity to the projects and communities they take on.

That three-pronged goal is essential to Designing Local’s success, and what separates it from the pack. They work to honor the heritage of local communities and build pride for localized design, cement a legacy that makes each community both timeless and authentic to its geography and history, and help communities thrive by instituting design that attracts businesses and residents.

To help communities display their heritage and unique attributes, Designing Local offers a variety of services they consult on, everything from planning and historic preservation to public art and cultural tourism.

“We are passionate about communities, and are passionate about helping communities extract locally-unique design attributes that can be translated into locally-inspired projects of every kind,” Amanda Golden, one of Designing Local’s three co-founders and principals said.

Approaching design with the mindset that flash and substance can co-exist, Designing Local attempts to tackle the epidemic of uniformity.

“Our company was born from the belief that homogeneity has plagued communities for far too long,” Golden said. “We believe in helping the communities in which we are working, and desire to help those communities recognize that prosperity does not equate to copying what others are doing, but is found in generating pride in who they already are and who they are going to become.”

As a growing small business, one of the challenges Designing Local faces on a daily basis is simply figuring out what does and doesn’t work – for their clients and their business model. Luckily, the creative minds behind the firm are open to the experimentation that’s necessary to combat this challenge.

“Our competitors set a high bar, but we hope our approach to storytelling and strategy for leveraging that story outshines others’ processes,” said Golden.

One of the more exciting and liberating aspects of being a small consulting business is the freedom to chase after the work they want.

“We love being able to choose the communities we work in. Because our line of work requires us to apply to work in these communities, if we aren’t drawn to the community or the mission of the leadership, we don’t apply. So, we generally find ourselves in cool places with cool people.”

With more than 39,000 communities in the United States, Designing Local is looking to expand its reach to some of America’s quirkier, more unique locations. Every community has their own unique story rooted in history and the local environment, and Designing Local can’t wait to help tell more of those stories through design.