Small Business Majority Blog

Small Business Matters

During National Small Business Week, Small Business Majority is recognizing small business owners who strive to give back to their communities. Bryce Smith, owner of the Adel Family Fun Center in Adel, Iowa, is certainly one of them.

The Adel Family Fun Center has been a beloved Iowa bowling alley and bar and grill since 1960. Smith always enjoyed spending time there, and even began working there in high school. After college, he returned home in 2014 to discover the owner wanted to retire. Smith soon purchased the bowling alley, becoming a business owner at the age of 23. While the business was successful, it wasn’t easy becoming a business owner so young.

“I graduated college with debt, which made it hard to secure a loan for an existing business,” said Smith. “Student debt can be a big challenge for young entrepreneurs. The hardest part was trying to find an institution that would lend to me despite my debt.”

As someone who has firsthand experience with how hard it can be to get started in business young, Smith has focused on offering opportunities to other young people. Most of the jobs Smith offers are for younger people, or those who are high school-aged, who can use the opportunity to get their feet wet and learn skills that will be useful to them later on. He also works with youth training community programs.

“I’m working with the local school district to develop an internship job shadow that offers 4-8 hours of work. I also do a similar program for mentally disabled individuals to get these people out in the community,” said Smith. “These two programs not only help my business, but also allow me to give back to my community. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The Adel Family Fun Center has been an Iowa institution for decades, and with tenacious and community-minded owners like Smith, it isn’t hard to see why. During National Small Business Week, it’s a great time to think about small business owners like Smith and how they can help their communities.

This is a guest post from Maria Contreras-Sweet, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). This blog originally appeared on the SBA’s website.

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-SweetWhat creates two out of three net new American jobs; produces close to half of our nation’s goods and services (nonfarm private GDP); and can be found, coast to coast, in every small town, big city and rural enclave?

The 28 million small businesses that propel our economy forward and define our national entrepreneurial spirit.

To be American is to have the freedom to innovate, take risks, create, transform and put in the hard work that has led to the successes – and failures – that define human progress. From May 1-6, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will recognize and honor the critical and life altering contributions of America’s moms and pops, manufacturing enterprises, Main Street retailers and entrepreneurs during National Small Business Week.

Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation setting aside one week to “recommit to advancing these vital enterprises, and celebrate their contributions to our collective American story.” As Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said, it was small businesses that powered our recovery after the Great Recession.

This year’s National Small Business Week, themed “SBA: Dream Big, Start Small,” will include special events in Atlanta, New York, Denver, Phoenix, San Jose, Oakland and Washington, D.C.

Tune in all week for live-streaming, beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday as we officially kick off the week and join me at @MCS4Biz on Twitter or Instagram, and #DreamSmallBiz.

America is one of the few countries that gives entrepreneurs a seat at the President’s cabinet table. This allows the SBA to provide an amplified voice for small businesses and represent their divergent interests.

The SBA also offers an extensive national network of small business lenders and counselors that is unmatched anywhere in the world. Many innovators with great ideas and great potential do not begin with great wealth, so they need a great government partner to support their success.

The SBA offers the “three Cs” to help aspiring entrepreneurs start up and scale up by making counseling available, providing more choices and chances to secure capital, and by helping them seize market opportunities to commercialize their ideas. These risk takers will help make our lives more productive, safer, healthier and benefit society overall.

Capital: SBA fills gaps in the commercial lending marketplace so success in the small business sector is based on merit, not family wealth. To inquire about a small business loan, click here.

Counseling: SBA provides free consultation and advice to help Main Street succeed. To find a counseling center near you, click here.

Contracts: SBA levels the playing field with big business by helping small businesses capture new revenue and new customers by winning government contracts, joining corporate supply chains, and exporting beyond our borders. To learn about contracting opportunities, click here.

This year, during National Small Business Week, we recommit ourselves to those fearless entrepreneurs who plan well, work hard, and dream big. Every business starts small. Many of today’s most recognized brands were once small businesses until they found an SBA counselor, lender or investor.

I came to this country as a 5-year old immigrant who didn’t speak a word of English. Today, I serve in the cabinet of the President of the United States. My story is possible only because of America’s promise and its entrepreneurial spirit. I’m proud to lead an incredibly talented team assembled from across the country ready to serve you.

Success in business comes one small step at a time. So dream big, take that next small step today, because the next great American success story could be staring back at you in the mirror.

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet started three businesses in Los Angeles, including a community bank, before joining President Obama’s cabinet in April 2014.

With tax season in full bloom small business owners have an opportunity to not only reduce their tax liability, but also help their employees receive a coveted benefit – health insurance.

Through Covered California for Small Business (CCSB), employers may qualify for a federal tax credit to help offset the cost of providing health insurance to employees by purchasing coverage.

“Tax credits are unmined nuggets for small business owners under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” said Kirk Whelan, director of Covered California’s Individual and Small Business Sales Division. “For those who qualify, every dollar an employer contributes to premiums up to 50 percent of annual cost has the potential of coming back to them through reduced taxes.”

“That’s money you don’t want to leave on the table,” Whelan said.

In 2016, businesses with up to 100 employees can apply for health insurance coverage for their workers through Covered California.. That is an increase from 2015, when only businesses with fewer than 50 workers could apply for coverage through the Covered California exchange.

Employers with 25 or fewer full-time equivalent employees, who cover half the cost of their monthly premiums and other factors may qualify for federal tax credits, but only if they enroll through Covered California for Small Business.

Whelan said sole proprietors who enroll in the individual market through Covered California may be eligible for a subsidy.

According to Covered California, small businesses can get affordable, top quality, brand-named health insurance from six health and seven dental carriers. There are four tiers of plans – Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum – with dozens of plan options.

Expanded coverage includes Covered California’s new Dual Tier Choice program that allows employees to choose between health plans offered in different tiers as long as the tiers are adjoining. For example, employees may choose between plans offered in Bronze and Silver tiers.

Some 14,000 Certified Insurance Agents are on hand to help businesses with their health insurance options. About 85 percent of employers work with an agent to make the right decision for their business.

Additionally, Covered California has partnered with the California Tax Education Council to promote consumer awareness of the importance of using a licensed or registered tax preparer.  The California Tax Education Council was created in 1997 by the California State Legislature to help protect taxpayers against fraudulent and incompetent tax preparers.  Their online resource guide will help individuals report fraud and find licensed or registered tax preparers.

For more information about enrolling for coverage through Covered California for Small Business, call (844) 269-3761.  To learn more, you can watch this video in English or Spanish


Fresh Kutz opened its doors in North Hollywood in 2008 with the goal of offering all customers premium services by top-level barbers in a modern barbershop. Since its inception, owner Brian Portillo knew he would face several challenges as the community has a crime rate above the national average.  Not only did he want to open his business in the community in which he grew up, but he wanted to create positive social impact while running his business.

Picture1 “As a teen, I always had the entrepreneurial spirit. I knew I would one day become a small business owner. Now as an adult, and employer, I know my responsibility is to offer opportunities to others,” said Portillo. “As a minority small business owner, I take pride in my community and pride in making a positive change in my community.”

In 2015, Portillo put those words into action after taking Small Business Majority’s Opportunity Youth Pledge—a commitment to help young people prepare for and launch their careers. He has since established an apprenticeship program where he offers work-based learning opportunities for low-income youth.

Portillo was also inspired to engage more closely with other small businesses and local non-profits to offerPicture2
tangible opportunities for youth. He recently partnered with local small business owners from Eat Naked LA, Making It Happen, and non-profit organization Youth Speak Collective to begin working on a community beautification project. This project includes a mural that Youth Speak Collective began working on in late January 2016, which will depict images from their community in the heart of North Hollywood. This project gives young people an opportunity to learn art and design after school and help improve their communities.

By engaging other small business owners and local non-profits to become involved in creating these opportunities for youth, Portillo exemplifies just how easy it is to make a difference through the power of collaboration.

“Providing the youth a forum to positively impact their local communities is essential to creating substantive change for more positive outcomes,” said Portillo. “Corporate social responsibility doesn’t just apply to large corporations. It’s in the best interest of all of us business owners—small and large—to have better communities to increase revenues.”

Portillo encourages all small business owners to take an active role in offering mentoring programs or internships.

Picture3“Don’t think you’re alone,” said Portillo. “With the help of organizations like Small Business Majority and Youth Speak Collective, you can find resources to help you realize a vision that fits you and the impact you want to create. I encourage small business owners to take the pledge and see how it can broaden their future.”

This National Small Business Week, we want to recognize small business owners like Portillo, who offer an inspiring example of how entrepreneurs can make a difference in their communities. For more information about the Opportunity Youth Pledge and best practices to help get more involved with young people, please visit

Steve Katsaros has always been an innovator. He began inventing products for the ski industry in his late teens, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) from Purdue University so he could follow his dream of creating new technologies to improve the world. In the early 2000s, Katsaros came up with his first big invention: the RevoPower, an efficient motorized wheel designed to travel up to 20 miles per hour at over 100 miles per gallon.

In 2010, different wheels started turning in Katsaros’ mind when he thought of a portable solar light bulb that could be used to provide light in developing countries. Katsaros soon launched his Denver-based business Nokero, short for “no kerosene,” and set out on a journey towards brightening the lives of people without electricity.

“I think small businesses can play a really important role in innovating to solve long-standing problems,” said Katsaros. “That’s what I wanted to do with Nokero. I believe in the power of entrepreneurship to addressing our world’s challenges.”

Around 1.3 billion people live without electricity, and in many developing countries, productivity comes to a halt at nightfall. But because Nokero bulbs use solar power to charge during the day, they can provide light to homes and workplaces throughout the night in areas that don’t have access to reliable electricity grids.

“It’s incredibly rewarding to invent products that can improve the quality of life for people around the world,” said Katsaros. “At the same time, I’m also able to create jobs right here in Colorado. That shows how broad the reach of a small business can be.”

Katsaros’ innovation is one more example of how small businesses are reliable drivers of new ideas that can improve the world. During National Small Business Week, it’s time for us to focus on ways we can foster entrepreneurship so more small businesses are able to thrive and create economic growth.