Our View: Starting small to go big
Our View

Our View: Starting small to go big

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According to the federal government’s Small Business Administration, a “small business” is defined as one having 500 or fewer employees.

For most local small business operators, having 500 employees would be a dream come true, because it would mean their business has prospered enough to expand.

We started thinking about this after reading our news story over the weekend encouraging North County residents to “Shop small. Shop local.” The focus was the annual Small Business Saturday, a relatively new commercial effort that sprang up in response to the mega-sales Black Friday/Cyber Monday extravaganza.

The thought we had reading the story was, every day should be Small Business Saturday, and by golly, those were the very words spoken by the manager of Old Town Market in Orcutt.

It’s a noble thought, and in a very real way it’s what happens in this country, day in and day out. While online superstore Amazon and other major retailing chains are the hot ticket these days, small, local businesses are where the economic rubber hits the road. Consider these facts:

The experts at the Small Business Administration classify 99.9 percent of U.S. businesses as small, and those operations are responsible for creating just short of 2 million new jobs a year. Firms with 20 or less employees created more than half of those new positions.

Some of today’s commercial behemoths had very modest beginnings. Steve Jobs and his buddies started Apple at Jobs’ modest home. The company is worth more than $200 billion today, and dominates many key tech markets. Other notables starting small include Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Walmart’s Sam Walton.

If you want to see the real American success story, at least in a business context, the place to start looking is at your small, innovative local businesses.

Small businesses are also where careers are born. The majority of U.S. workers first came into the business world as employees in small businesses. About half of all U.S. adults either are self-employed or work for businesses with far fewer than the SBA’s benchmark 500 employees.

Starting a small business from scratch is not for the faint of heart. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, about 20 percent of small businesses fail within their first year. By the end of their fifth year, roughly 50 percent of small businesses go under.

As daunting as those facts are, there’s just something about living the American dream that propels people into owning and running their own shop, plant or office.

Another very important fact to consider is that most of the mega-stores are headquartered somewhere else, which means a big chunk of the profits go somewhere else. When you spend at a locally-owned store, just more than two-thirds of that dollar you spend stays right here in North County.

Small Business Saturday was started nearly a decade ago by a mega-business — American Express — to take pro-active steps to counteract the impacts of the Great Recession. According to American Express records, consumers have spent more than $100 billion so far on Small Business Saturdays.

There also is something special about walking into a locally-owned business and having the sales people greet you by name, ask about your family and make you feel thoroughly welcome. That happens at some big stores, too, but it’s not the same.

So, given the facts of small businesses, we’d have say that Orcutt market manager is correct — every day should be Small Business Saturday.

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