Small Business Majority Blog

Small Business Matters

There are many complex policy issues that have a major impact on the small business community. Each week, we’re going to help break one of those issues down so small business owners can stay in the know and remain aware of their stake in these national issues. This week’s Issue Q&A is on access to capital.

Q: How do small business owners feel about access to capital?

A: Access to capital has been a persistent problem for entrepreneurs, particularly since the recession. While some parts of the business community have found it easier to secure capital, there are significant gaps in critical areas, such as minority and rural communities, as well as for groups of entrepreneurs like women and veterans. Our opinion polling found that an overwhelming 90% of small business owners nationwide agree that access to credit for a small business is a problem, with 61% agreeing it’s harder to get a loan now than it was before the 2008 recession.

Q: How does crowdfunding relate to access to capital?

A: Crowdfunding is a method of funding by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically online. Small businesses have seen the rapid growth of alternative sources of capital like crowdfunding, which leaves entrepreneurs at risk due to the lack of fair and clear regulations on this new venture. Policymakers must address the risk that comes with alternative sources of capital that balances very real opportunities without stifling this same innovation that has the potential to create more options and points of access to capital for small businesses.

Q: How can lawmakers ensure fair regulation of crowdfunding to protect small businesses?

A: The JOBS Act of 2012 required the SEC to issue guidance on crowdfunding. Lawmakers should issue these final rules as quickly as possible, with no further delay, and strike the appropriate balance between oversight and opportunity.

Q: What else can be done to help small businesses access capital more easily?

A: One solution is to change outdated regulations that limit credit unions from meeting small business needs. Currently, there are federal regulations in place that bar credit unions from lending more than 12.25% of their assets to businesses, resulting in businesses belonging to these credit unions having $13 billion less in capital available to them. Bipartisan legislation in Congress would change this and allow credit unions to lend up to 27.5% of their assets, increasing options for small businesses and creating thousands of new jobs with no additional risk for taxpayers.

Q: What about efforts for entrepreneurs that are historically underserved in accessing capital like minorities and women?

A: Continuing to support and expand efforts by the SBA, USDA and other agencies to close gaps through loan guarantee programs will help serve minority, women, veteran and rural entrepreneurs in their attempts to access capital. With innovative new ways of streamlining and simplifying loan-making for small businesses and opening new avenues of capital for them being used, the existing needs of minority entrepreneurs will can be met in order for them to continue serving their function as job creators. Particularly for women, who account for only 16% of conventional small business loans, legislation such as the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act would address this gender gap in lending by expanding or improving SBA programs to reach more women seeking business loans.

To learn more about the efforts lawmakers can take to improve small business access to capital, check out our full economic agenda report on access to capital here.

Wafa Kanan, chief strategist of Unique Image

Every business sets its sights on making it rain greenbacks, but LA-based marketing firm Unique Image decided to look past the money and build a brand around purple.

And why not base a business around the qualities of purple? After all, purple embodies strength, royalty, style and intelligence – key attributes for any successful business, especially a marketing and media agency.

As chief strategist and visionary for Unique Image, Wafa Kanan orchestrates the marketing, branding and multimedia solutions of her boutique agency.

“Unique Image offers state-of-the-art graphic solutions and brand messaging services,” Kanan said. “Our accomplished team of designers and marketers are adept branding strategists, routinely delivering the media exposure our clients crave.”

With a reach that stretches far and wide, Unique Image has created dynamic campaigns for the entertainment, health, education, tourism and technology industries.

“As a small, woman-owned business, Unique Image strives daily to reveal those diamonds in the rough and focus on unlocking a client’s true market potential,” she said.

Like every marketing and media agency, the evolution of technology has forced many to adapt quickly or sink. Unique Image has managed to elegantly embrace this change while remaining true to their mission.

“By 2011, 80 percent of our major accounts transferred their communications to digital,” Kanan said, highlighting the rapid spread of the digital sphere over many communications departments. “So we went back to the drawing board and reinvented our company’s capabilities.”

Whereas before, collateral materials, such as outdoor banners and pamphlets, used to cut it, now Unique Image embraces direct marketing and event promotion utilizing all that multimedia and technology has to offer.

“Over the past three years, Unique Image has laid out a vision of becoming an umbrella organization with state-of-the-art digital production and a creative hub in multiple formats of digital communications,” she said.

To that end, Unique Image seeks out the brightest and most cutting edge talent they can find.

“We believe this formula of aggregating the best and the brightest of creative talents within their fields provide an added value to our clientele.”

In order to attract a uniquely skilled workforce and transform into a hub of digital creativity and innovation, Kanan is in the process of investing in a nearby historical building, which she believes will be ideal for their newfound operational model.

Not every agency would be able to adapt their business model to conform to the changing needs of the communications field, but Kanan has personified all of the qualities of Unique Image’s trademark purple to create an evolving, thriving agency.

Companies might want to start thinking purple if they want to rake in the green.

With the days getting shorter and the temperature getting colder, you should be shopping smaller.

As the holiday season starts kicking into full gear, one day should especially stick out in the minds of small business owners: Small Business Saturday.

Since 2010, Small Business Saturday has been designated as a day encouraging people to shop at small businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Essentially, it’s the small business version of Black Friday, and this year, the big day falls on November 29.

To commemorate the occasion and attempt to make the fifth year of Small Business Saturday the biggest one yet, Small Business Majority has launched a campaign, “Confessions of a Small Biz Shopaholic,” to encourage consumers across the country to shop small.

Leading up to Small Business Saturday, we will be posting photos from people shopping at and supporting their local small businesses as a way of spotlighting small businesses and promoting this important movement during a crucial time of year for many brick-and-mortar stores.

Whether it’s a selfie of a fun shopping adventure or a cool shot of all the goodies you snatched up at your favorite local business, we can’t wait to highlight all the small business shopaholics out there to build up momentum for this year’s Small Business Saturday.

The small business owner who sends in the most creative photo will be chosen as our grand prize winner and receive a complete revamp of their social media platforms, courtesy of Small Business Majority. And the runner up will win a free annual pass to any U.S. national park.

Speaking of social media, be sure to follow along with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see our “Confessions of a Small Biz Shopaholic” campaign in action, and be sure to join in on our conversation around Small Business Saturday using the hashtag #SmallBizShopaholic.

As you get your shop on this year, make sure you go big by shopping small!

To enter a photo into our contest, contact Dustin McManus at dmcmanus@smallbusinessmajority.org.

New Jersey’s Hispanic community is an integral part of the state’s economy, and the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey is a key part of the community’s economic influence.

For 25 years, the chamber has fostered, mentored and trained Hispanic-owned businesses in New Jersey.

“The Chamber is the premier vehicle to access the Hispanic community and its formidable purchasing power, as evidenced by our growth of non-Hispanic membership,” Carlos Medina, chairman of the chamber, said.

Having evolved initially from a small group of business leaders to become one of the largest chambers in the Garden State, the chamber has become a voice for the 70,000 Hispanic-owned businesses that contribute more than $10 billion towards the state’s economy.

In order to be of use to the local Hispanic community, the chamber leverages relationships with the public and private sector to bypass red tape in order to offer their members and the community the services they need.

“The easiest way to describe what we do is by saying that we connect the dots. We really listen to our members and their needs and connect them to the correct people that can help them,” he said. “We are both our members’ mentor and coach.”

The chamber hosts three signature events each year, including its Health & Wellness Fair, Diversity Celebration & Annual Convention and its Awards Luncheon. This on top of the many networking events, webinars, expos and training sessions the chamber offers year-round.

“Our mission is to promote the continued growth and development of New Jersey businesses,” Medina said.

To meet that goal, the chamber works to expand business opportunities, educate and train entrepreneurs, serve as a business advocate in the political process and promote trade between local, state and national business communities.

These efforts have proved very fruitful.

“We have assisted many members to make great connections that have helped them further their business,” Medina said. “We have also acted as a promotional advocate to help members gain exposure for their business.”

In the coming months, the chamber is focusing on hot topics such as access to capital, diversity within the state’s business community and entrepreneurship in New Jersey.

“We’ll be launching an entrepreneurship training academy in Central New Jersey that will give them not only the knowledge and connections to succeed, but also mentors to turn to for the life of their business.”

And with an added focus on embracing new technologies, which Medina believes adds “value and augments our valuable relationships,” the chamber is looking to spearhead the growth and development of the New Jersey Hispanic business community for years to come.

There are many complex policy issues that have a major impact on the small business community. Each week, we’re going to help break one of those issues down so small business owners can stay in the know and remain aware of their stake in these national issues. This week’s Issue Q&A is on healthcare reform.

Q: How has the Affordable Care Act impacted small business access to healthcare?

A: Implementation of the Affordable Care Act has removed a significant impediment to entrepreneurship. No longer is healthcare coverage tied to a job working for another employer. Would-be entrepreneurs can now pursue their dreams of starting their own business knowing they will have access to affordable health coverage. For small businesses, there is a wealth of options available to provide affordable coverage to employees, allowing smaller firms to compete for highly skilled workers.

Q: What steps can lawmakers take to ensure the healthcare law is working best for small businesses?

A: One way to strengthen the Affordable Care Act for small businesses is making sure the federal Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) functions properly when it’s released online on November 15. SHOP allows small businesses with fewer than 50 employees to band together when buying coverage, granting them the kind of purchasing clout larger corporations enjoy. Small employers that offer coverage through the marketplace may also be eligible for a tax credit of up to 50% of the premiums.

A properly implemented SHOP marketplace relieves hard-working small business owners from spending countless hours trying to navigate the healthcare market. Following a year’s delay with no online front-end available in the federally run SHOP marketplaces, getting a working online system up and running would be a real win for small businesses.

Q: Do employees of small businesses have any choice in their health coverage?

A: Yes! In fact, employee choice is key in distinguishing the new insurance marketplaces from the outside health insurance market, and small businesses are very supportive of this feature. Our scientific opinion polling found two-thirds of small employers believe allowing employees to choose among multiple carriers is a huge benefit of the ACA.

In June 2014, the Obama administration released a rule allowing states to delay the implementation of employee choice in SHOP until 2015. This rule has allowed half the states with federally run programs to opt out of the ACA-mandated requirement that the SHOP marketplace allow employees to choose among multiple insurance carriers. This harms small businesses in those states and puts them at a competitive disadvantage with big business. Including employee choice in all SHOP marketplaces as quickly as possible can reverse a longstanding market trend that’s left small employers on unequal footing.

Q: What about self-employed individuals?

A: There are more options outside of SHOP for self-employed individuals and small businesses not in a financial position to purchase employer-sponsored coverage. Since none of our nation’s 22 million self-employed people are eligible to purchase coverage in SHOP, they have options available to them in the individual healthcare insurance marketplaces. It’s important that lawmakers also continue to support maximum outreach and education efforts to inform these self-employed individuals about their options and access to health coverage under the ACA.