Small Business Majority Blog

Small Business Matters

Small Business Majority CEO John Arensmeyer

Small Business Majority CEO John Arensmeyer

We’re pleased the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s provision that allows consumers in states with federally-run health insurance marketplaces to receive federal tax credits to help offset the cost of insurance.

The Supreme Court’s decision protects the millions of small business owners, employees and self-employed freelance entrepreneurs from losing the valuable health insurance they have secured in the past 18 months. Moreover, eliminating the credits would have led to a return of “job lock,” which shackled many would-be entrepreneurs to jobs working for others rather than starting their own businesses. Employment and access to affordable health insurance historically have been tightly linked. That linkage pressures individuals to seek out and remain in jobs that provide affordable health insurance, even if they would otherwise choose to start their own business or pursue a more attractive job opportunity with a growing small business.

If the Supreme Court had eliminated these tax credits in states with federally-facilitated marketplaces, an estimated 9.6 million people who bought insurance through HealthCare.gov would have lost their subsidies, according to the RAND Corporation. What’s more, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found 1.5 million people will launch their own business and become self-employed because of provisions in the Affordable Care Act that will make purchasing insurance on the open market more accessible. The opportunity for these millions of people to strike out on their own could have been eliminated if the Court had removed the subsidies from federally-run marketplaces.

The health insurance marketplaces are the most important component of the Affordable Care Act for entrepreneurs, and it’s critical they are kept as robust as possible. We’re glad the Supreme Court has upheld this provision that is crucial to the success of the health insurance marketplaces and to our nation’s entrepreneurs.

grasspops4One D.C. entrepreneur made the rare decision to forfeit her high-paying career at a law firm and embrace her creative side by going into the kitchen and whipping up cake pops. That daring leap led Yael Krigman to open the area’s first-ever store dedicated to cake pops, a cakepoppery called Baked by Yael.

As a buttoned-up law firm associate, Krigman’s desire for a more lighthearted work environment began when she started a tradition known as “Monday Treats,” where she would bring in baked goods she made from scratch to counteract the doldrums of her office environment.

“I eventually reached a point where I had to make a choice between a secure, high-paying job and a business venture with tremendous risks, but also potential for tremendous gain, both in profit and happiness,” Krigman recalled.

It ended up being a no-brainer – Krigman quit the firm, and Baked by Yael was born. Case closed.

“Being a lawyer was very adversarial,” she said. “We were always opposing someone or something. Now my job is to add sweetness to people’s lives.”

Krigman started out marketing and selling her cake pops online, but without a storefront, she found it difficult to take Baked by Yael to the next level. She began a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013, raising nearly $75,000, which, along with some loan assistance, enabled Baked by Yael to transition from an online retailer to a brick and mortar business, starting with a kiosk at the Annapolis Mall.

Krigman cited that first move as a pivotal juncture to interacting more with her customers.

“I learned that people were excited about the idea of cake on a stick. It was something that appealed to the growing group of consumers who didn’t want to eat a whole cupcake or slice of cake,” she said.

Krigman opened her first storefront in January this year across the street from the National Zoo. Now with an actual store to call her own, Krigman’s connection with her customers has only deepened.

“The most rewarding part of my business is making my customers happy. Through Baked by Yael, I’ve been part of bar mitzvahs, graduations, baby showers and birthdays.”

Despite the limited resources she faces as a small business owner, there are two things Krigman refuses to skimp on: her employees and her ingredients. She starts all of her employees at a salary above D.C.’s minimum wage, and while this results in higher payroll expenses, Krigman believes this is crucial to her business.

“It’s important to me that I treat my employees well. I respect them and I value them. While a more prudent approach fiscally might be to use the cheapest ingredients possible and pay my staff no more than the minimum wage, I’m not willing to do this.”

While she remains focused on keeping D.C.’s first cakepoppery stable and profitable, Krigman is just thrilled to be rolling cake pops, cultivating a family-like workforce and providing a little pop of happiness into the lives of her customers.

“After four years as an online bakery, it’s a real treat to be able to meet my customers in person and watch them enjoy our cake pops and other baked goods. That moment when they take their first bite, when their eyes close and they sigh, is such a joy to witness.”

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With a keen eye for alluring design and a mission to showcase and honor the one-of-a-kind flair of different local communities, Designing Local is a consulting firm that seeks to bring the inner-beauty of a given locale to the forefront.

Based in Columbus, Ohio, Designing Local is celebrating a big milestone – one year in business of bringing pride, legacy and prosperity to the projects and communities they take on.

That three-pronged goal is essential to Designing Local’s success, and what separates it from the pack. They work to honor the heritage of local communities and build pride for localized design, cement a legacy that makes each community both timeless and authentic to its geography and history, and help communities thrive by instituting design that attracts businesses and residents.

To help communities display their heritage and unique attributes, Designing Local offers a variety of services they consult on, everything from planning and historic preservation to public art and cultural tourism.

“We are passionate about communities, and are passionate about helping communities extract locally-unique design attributes that can be translated into locally-inspired projects of every kind,” Amanda Golden, one of Designing Local’s three co-founders and principals said.

Approaching design with the mindset that flash and substance can co-exist, Designing Local attempts to tackle the epidemic of uniformity.

“Our company was born from the belief that homogeneity has plagued communities for far too long,” Golden said. “We believe in helping the communities in which we are working, and desire to help those communities recognize that prosperity does not equate to copying what others are doing, but is found in generating pride in who they already are and who they are going to become.”

As a growing small business, one of the challenges Designing Local faces on a daily basis is simply figuring out what does and doesn’t work – for their clients and their business model. Luckily, the creative minds behind the firm are open to the experimentation that’s necessary to combat this challenge.

“Our competitors set a high bar, but we hope our approach to storytelling and strategy for leveraging that story outshines others’ processes,” said Golden.

One of the more exciting and liberating aspects of being a small consulting business is the freedom to chase after the work they want.

“We love being able to choose the communities we work in. Because our line of work requires us to apply to work in these communities, if we aren’t drawn to the community or the mission of the leadership, we don’t apply. So, we generally find ourselves in cool places with cool people.”

With more than 39,000 communities in the United States, Designing Local is looking to expand its reach to some of America’s quirkier, more unique locations. Every community has their own unique story rooted in history and the local environment, and Designing Local can’t wait to help tell more of those stories through design.

When Monica J. Scott touched down in Washington, D.C. on May 11, 2015, she had no idea the magnitude of the event she was about to take part in.

Gathering at our nation’s capital for Small Business Majority’s inaugural Small Business Leadership Summit, Scott was a member of a group of the best and brightest small business owners who came to voice their opinions to policymakers, hoping to institute real change that would benefit the greater small business community.

As the CEO of Doctor Physical Therapy, an outpatient physical therapy clinic based in Woodbury, N.J, Scott was thrilled to be chosen to attend this three-day event of education, collaboration and action.

“It was an honor to be chosen to attend the Summit,” Scott said. “I was both thrilled and humbled by the fact that I was one of only 113 small business owners from across the country to be chosen to attend such an event.”

Small businesses like Scott’s are crucial to our country’s vitality and our economic success. That’s why it’s important for small business owners’ voices to be heard by lawmakers on the top issues they face. With this Leadership Summit, a select group of talented and innovative small business owners had the chance to do just that: interacting with policymakers who can help institute the change they need to continue serving as the driving force of our economy.

“Listening to the presenters was an awesome and inspiring experience,” she said. What inspired Scott even more was talking and sharing with her fellow small business owners.

“One of the things I will treasure most was the opportunity to network and learn from the other business owners in attendance. Part of the failure stories of being a business owner is you have to figure out so much on your own and hope that you can keep your financial curve greater than your debt curve. We all have had successes and failures, and we all had valuable things to share to help one another.”

The bonds that Scott formed with other small business owners during the Summit took her by surprise, as she wasn’t expecting to find such common ground with others across a variety of fields and locations, commenting that “people in completely different industries have ideas and success stories that have been instrumental in the growth and development of your own business.”

Small Business Majority Leadership Summit Networking Group 2015

A photo posted by Doctor Physical Therapy (@doctorphysicaltherapy) on

A major issue that Scott discovered impacted all small business owners to varying degrees is access to capital. The topic came up frequently on panels, in breakout sessions and in one-on-one conversations with small business owners about the difficulty of acquiring sufficient funds and resources to run and grow their businesses.

As a learning experience, the Summit taught Scott an important fact – her struggle as a small business owner is not unique to just her.

“All business owners, whether they have been in business one year or 30 struggle with many of the same obstacles and situations; the key is to be innovative in your methods of problem solving and utilize your assets and resources to find the solution that moves you to the next level.”

Ultimately, the Summit was an enlightening and rewarding experience for Scott, who found comfort and strength uniting with other small business owners, recalling it was a “fantastic opportunity to bring the business owners together and the community at large to share and provide information.”

When asked if she would recommend that other small business owners attend the Summit in the future, her response was quick: “Absolutely!”

Award winners Chanceé Lundy & Veronica Davis, Owners of Nspiregreen; Virginia McAllister, Owner of Iron Horse Architects; Beverly Hanstrom, President and Owner of Colorado Medical Waste

Four superstar small business owners didn’t just receive the opportunity of a lifetime by meeting with lawmakers to find solutions to pressing small business issues at our inaugural Small Business Leadership Summit in the nation’s capitol earlier this month, they also walked away with prestigious honors, and some nice hardware to boot.

Virginia McAllister, Beverly Hanstrom, Chancee Lundy and Veronica Davis were all honored with small business leadership awards at a reception in Google’s D.C. headquarters on May 12, a ceremony that bookended the second day of Small Business Majority’s Leadership Summit.

McAllister owns Iron Horse Architects, an architectural firm based in Denver, CO that centers on the principles of sustainability, adaptability and longevity. The company has been at the forefront of implementing Building Information Modeling (BIM), which facilitates the planning, designing, constructing and managing of buildings and infrastructure at a digital level. Through McAllister’s use of innovative technology to grow her business and break ground in her industry, she was awarded our Technological Innovation Award.

Chancee Lundy and Veronica Davis co-own Nspiregreen, a D.C.-based environmental consulting firm with an eye toward serving their community. They engage in extensive outreach to ensure the voices of disadvantaged residents are heard in decisions on planning infrastructure projects.

Outside their business, Davis launched “Black Women Bike,” an organization that gives women of color a voice at the infrastructure policy table, while Lundy serves on the board of Together Restoring Economic Empowerment, a nonprofit dedicated to helping minority communities tackle economic and environmental civil rights issues. For their personal and professional commitment to serving their community, Davis and Lundy received our Community Development Award.

“Our public engagement supports our other business units,” Davis said, discussing her and Lundy’s community efforts. “Our projects impact people. We believe it is important to hear from the people who are impacted by the projects we work on.”

Beverly Hanstrom owns Colorado Medical Waste, a local leader in medical waste disposal offering services for everything from collection and transportation to treatment and incineration. She incorporates a process known as ozone medical waste processing which utilizes ozone, electricity and an industrial shredder to reduce medical waste volume by 90 percent while diverting tons of waste from landfills with absolutely no emissions resulting from the process. For her environmental consciousness and business practices, Hanstrom was awarded our Sustainability Award.

“It was an honor to receive the Sustainability Award from Small Business Majority,” Hanstrom said. “The Summit gave me a platform to raise awareness and promote change in the medical waste industry. It was an unforgettable opportunity to share our sustainable disposal method with fellow participants and leaders from the Environmental Protection Agency.”

There you have it: four creative and innovative small business owners who are doing their best to become the leaders of tomorrow. We couldn’t have been more thrilled to honor them with these accolades, and have them be among the 100-plus business owners in attendance at our Summit.