When Councilmember A. Troy Miller and other city council members, along with 30 small businesses, met for a roundtable discussing opinions, insights and recommendations of small business, one thing was clear. Small businesses needed an advocate.
In response, Ryan Schick has become the city’s small business concierge. “My position is to assist small businesses in the current regulatory environment in Columbus,” he says. “The ultimate goal, and why I’m both honored and humbled to have this position, is eliminating as much red tape as possible.”
Schick will act as both an advocate and a resource for small businesses in Columbus. One of the biggest impacts the position will have is establishing the small business concierge web portal.
“We will be providing these small businesses, be it a restaurant, daycare, miscellaneous retailer or perhaps even a law firm,…a roadmap on how to establish themselves at a local, county and state level,” Schick says.
For example, if an entrepreneur was looking to start a daycare, the process requires local, county and state permits, and applications including background checks for all individuals involved to be in place before they open.
“What I really want to do is give them a start to finish checklist,” Schick says. The site, “Includes necessary explanations, links to various resources, and most importantly direct links to those applications themselves,” Schick continues.
By the end of the month, Schick hopes to develop checklists for daycares, restaurants and retailers.
“We want this portal to be their primary go-to,” Schick says. The site will be a one-stop shop, eliminating the need to research and bookmark various resources and sites.
Schick will work closely with individuals who are in the the process of starting their own businesses to gain a first-hand knowledge of the experience. He will shadow and assist in that process and parlay that knowledge to help other businesses like them.
While the website will be a resource for small businesses, “It won’t just be a web portal with a generic contact me form,” Schick says. He plans to be a direct contact resource for businesses as much as he is able.
Schick has been canvassing the community making connections with as many small businesses and entrepreneurial resources as possible. He plans to attend Columbus Chamber, SBA and other events to develop a network of resources. He aims to put small businesses in touch with whoever they need, be it building and zoning, health and safety, or avenues to capital. Schick says goals will be met if he can do things like get companies into accelerators or incubators, or even provided them demographics about the area where they want to start their businesses.
He is excited by the prospect of pairing small businesses with needed resources. “A buzzword I keep hearing is cross-pollination of ideas and that legitimately is something that I would like to effectuate,” he says.
By directly interacting with small businesses, Schick is able to report back to city council and advocate on these entrepreneurs’ behalf – which is the other part of his position.
Not if but when in the course of the position he runs up against unnecessary red tape, Schick is to inform city council and do all he can to create a more efficient business environment.
Schick says the first success of his position is that it now exists. Small businesses wanted an advocate and that resource is now available.
“The creation of this position is the recognition by city council and the mayor’s office that small business is the biggest gear in our economy,” Schick says.
When it comes to cutting potential red tape, Schick thinks the biggest challenge will be balancing everyone’s interests. What’s good for one business might not be good for another. But, part of eliminating red tape also means identifying outdated practices.
“The next big idea is out there,” Schick says. “We want it to take place in Columbus.” The goal of the position is to make it easier for that to happen.
Schick thinks Columbus is on the right path to making big things happen. “Columbus is the town where the world’s best salty caramel was invented, where the CompuServe GIF was programmed, and where a group of cycling enthusiasts decided that they could ride to beat cancer. Columbus is passionate, its’ driven, and because of this environment, we will succeed.”