The Small Business Majority (SBM) is providing business owners with access to information and the educational resources to operate their businesses more effectively.
Traditionally focused on the intersection of small business and public policy, SBM Ohio Outreach Manager Michaela Hahn Burriss explains that when business owners understand government laws and regulations, they are going to make better bottom-line decisions.
Good decision-making is imperative not only to each individual business, but to the nation’s economy as a whole. Burriss says that small businesses already make up half of the nation’s workforce, and most job creation is happening in organizations that have 15 employees or fewer.
“They are the most likely to hire another person, to make that crucial investment in their business,” Burriss says.
To make those decisions, business owners often need guidance in areas outside of just public policy. The SBM turned to its members, looking for insights like, “What are the things that, if you’re a small business, that you roll out of bed that day, are the first things you think about,” Burriss says.
The SBM found its members needs were more granular.
“It’s usually how do I keep the lights on today,” Burriss says.
In response, the SBM is developing an Entrepreneurship Program providing information in the self-identified areas where small business owners need it most: access to capital, retirement security and healthcare & benefits.
“We asked small business owners questions about access to capital and lending and what we found is that 90 percent of small businesses identified access to capital as a problem,” Burriss says.
The SBM’s online Entrepreneurship Program portal provides businesses information on everything from lenders in their area, to explaining the difference between lending options.
“We want you to understand the lending landscape and make the best decision for you and your business,” Burriss says.
Local, vetted resources listed on the SBM portal include ECDI, Finance Fund and Increase CDC. The website also outlines the basics, along with pros and cons, of resources like SBA loans, alternative online lenders, crowdfunding, angel and venture capital and community development financial institutions.
SBM research found business owners also have questions when it comes to healthcare.
“Health insurance and health insurance costs continue to be one of the largest concerns for small employers,” Burriss says.
The workforce is changing. More individuals are leaving corporate roles to start their own businesses or work for smaller, purpose-driven employers. And with that, “The traditional ways that people are receiving benefits are also changing,” Burriss says.
There’s not always an HR person to explain and vet healthcare options.
“The highest uninsured rates with healthcare continue to be those that are self-employed and their employees,” Burriss says.
The Entrepreneurship Program focuses less on how to understand different insurance plans and more on connecting business owners with the best resources and insurance brokers. Additionally, as part of their policy focus, the SBM has a deep understanding of the Affordable Care Act and can provide information like what the law says specific to an employer’s size.
The self-employed are also less likely to be planning for retirement – the third focus of SBM’s Entrepreneurship Program.
“Research also shows that part of the reason why small business owners don’t have retirement is that they don’t get how it works,” Burriss says.
It’s not a matter of not thinking it’s the right thing to do, but a matter of demystifying the process and options. The online portal explains terms like 401k and IRA, and delves into how activity happening on a global level can affect different options.
In addition to the online portal, SBM hosts a number of national and local events to disseminate information.
“The goal of the Entrepreneurship Program is not only to be content-driven, but be local in focus and impact,” Burriss says.
National bi-weekly webinars tackle big-picture topics like access to capital, while local events might provide a direct connection with a panel of lenders in the area. Other local small business owners will also share their personal stories at events, providing peer-to-peer advice.
“The role of mentorship in entrepreneurship can’t be overstated,” Burriss says.
She encourages business owners to make the time and financial investment to attend events or explore their options. An hour up front could save a business loads of time and money in the future.
For more information, visit smallbusinessportal.org.