Small Business Majority Blog

Small Business Matters

In less than three years, the Mid-America Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has skyrocketed from the ground up to become an influential player in the Midwestern LGBT business community.

Founded by Dan Nilsen, CEO of Bishop-McCann, the Mid-America GLCC arose to fill “a big void in the Midwest for a gay and lesbian chamber of commerce,” said Michael Linctecum, executive director of the chamber.

Despite an overall urgency to fill this void, Nilsen took his time to meticulously craft a solid foundation around this affiliate of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, putting together a crackerjack group of community leaders to form a board that worked well over a year building a professional business organization.

“We opened up for business with a huge kick-off in May 2012 and so far, it’s been an exciting and rewarding two-and-a-half years,” Lintecum said.

At 225 members strong and growing, the Kansas City based chamber has a diverse membership, ranging from large corporations such as Hallmark, to many local small businesses, entrepreneurs and non-profits.

As one of 52 NGLCC affiliates, the Mid-America affiliate offers B2B networking and social events, as well as a host of special programs, with the goal of aiding their constituency base.

“Bottom line – we’re in the business to get LGBT-owned businesses and their allies the professional business help they need,” Lintecum said.

One of their successful programs has been a series called Master Minds, a monthly 90 minute brainstorming session with members of the chamber.

“Fifteen to 20 members come together each month and we have an owner or business present a business challenge they’re facing at that time, and then we brainstorm solutions on how to tackle that challenge,” explained Josh Strodtman, secretary of the chamber.

If would-be entrepreneurs or established business owners are looking for a master-class business training course, the chamber offers the Barnes Leadership Series led by Kay Barnes, former Kansas City mayor and professor at Park University.

The 10-session course meets every month and selects 15 individuals to train and coach on leadership skills like communication, collaboration and conflict management.

These programs are just the tip of the iceberg of what the chamber provides to its members, but they’re all designed with one end goal in mind.

“One of our programming missions is to make sure our programs reach across the spectrum, making sure connections are made to grow your business,” Strodtman said.

Particularly for small businesses, the chamber offers a business equality conference with a particular focus on them, as well as taking on the responsibility of assisting LGBT-owned businesses become certified under the NGLCC.

“If a small business were to join [us], they would certainly see the immediate benefits,” Lintecum said.

The next step for the chamber is growth, expanding further into the states of Missouri and Kansas, as well as targeting Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma with a main goal to cultivate a presence in all major Midwestern cities – a bit of a challenge for the still nascent organization.

“We don’t need to necessarily grow immediately, but grow with time in a very thoughtful way so members can receive the unique benefits they can’t get anywhere else,” Lintecum said.

Nevertheless, the strides and massive support the chamber has obtained in such a short span of time are never eclipsed by the work that lies ahead.

“In these three years, we couldn’t be more thrilled to have this many people and the reach of our membership.”

Season greetings from Small Business Majority!

With the days getting shorter and the temperature getting colder, you should be shopping smaller.

As the holiday season kicks into full gear, Small Business Majority is extending our “Confessions of a Small Biz Shopaholic” campaign to encourage consumers to shop small this holiday season and to drum up business for brick and mortar shops nationwide.

This time, we want to see how you are decking the halls around your small business to attract customers for the holiday season. For the remainder of the year,we will be posting photos from people shopping at and supporting their local small businesses and how small businesses are decorating their storefronts in order to spotlight them during a crucial time of year for many small retailers.

Whether it’s a selfie of a fun shopping adventure, a cool shot of all the goodies you snatched up at your favorite local business or a decked out store interior strung up with lights, tinsel and holly, we can’t wait to highlight all the small business shopaholics and the businesses they love.

The small business owner who sends in the most creative photo will be chosen as our grand prize winner and receive a complete revamp of their social media platforms, courtesy of Small Business Majority.

Additionally, the top five submissions will receive a profile of their business to be feature on our blog.

And speaking of social media, be sure to follow along with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see our “Confessions of a Small Biz Shopaholic” campaign in action, and be sure to join in on our conversation around this campaign using the hashtag #SmallBizShopaholic.

Show us how you’re getting into the holiday spirit by entering our contest, and you could be ringing in the New Year with one of our fabulous prizes. And remember, as you get your shop on this year, make sure you go big by shopping small!

To submit a photo into our “Confessions of a Small Biz Shopaholic” campaign, email dmcmanus@smallbusinessmajority.org.

There are many complex policy issues that have a major impact on the small business community. Each week, we’re going to help break one of those issues down so small business owners can stay in the know and remain aware of their stake in these national issues. This week’s Issue Q&A is on access to capital.

Q: How do small business owners feel about access to capital?

A: Access to capital has been a persistent problem for entrepreneurs, particularly since the recession. While some parts of the business community have found it easier to secure capital, there are significant gaps in critical areas, such as minority and rural communities, as well as for groups of entrepreneurs like women and veterans. Our opinion polling found that an overwhelming 90% of small business owners nationwide agree that access to credit for a small business is a problem, with 61% agreeing it’s harder to get a loan now than it was before the 2008 recession.

Q: How does crowdfunding relate to access to capital?

A: Crowdfunding is a method of funding by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically online. Small businesses have seen the rapid growth of alternative sources of capital like crowdfunding, which leaves entrepreneurs at risk due to the lack of fair and clear regulations on this new venture. Policymakers must address the risk that comes with alternative sources of capital that balances very real opportunities without stifling this same innovation that has the potential to create more options and points of access to capital for small businesses.

Q: How can lawmakers ensure fair regulation of crowdfunding to protect small businesses?

A: The JOBS Act of 2012 required the SEC to issue guidance on crowdfunding. Lawmakers should issue these final rules as quickly as possible, with no further delay, and strike the appropriate balance between oversight and opportunity.

Q: What else can be done to help small businesses access capital more easily?

A: One solution is to change outdated regulations that limit credit unions from meeting small business needs. Currently, there are federal regulations in place that bar credit unions from lending more than 12.25% of their assets to businesses, resulting in businesses belonging to these credit unions having $13 billion less in capital available to them. Bipartisan legislation in Congress would change this and allow credit unions to lend up to 27.5% of their assets, increasing options for small businesses and creating thousands of new jobs with no additional risk for taxpayers.

Q: What about efforts for entrepreneurs that are historically underserved in accessing capital like minorities and women?

A: Continuing to support and expand efforts by the SBA, USDA and other agencies to close gaps through loan guarantee programs will help serve minority, women, veteran and rural entrepreneurs in their attempts to access capital. With innovative new ways of streamlining and simplifying loan-making for small businesses and opening new avenues of capital for them being used, the existing needs of minority entrepreneurs will can be met in order for them to continue serving their function as job creators. Particularly for women, who account for only 16% of conventional small business loans, legislation such as the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act would address this gender gap in lending by expanding or improving SBA programs to reach more women seeking business loans.

To learn more about the efforts lawmakers can take to improve small business access to capital, check out our full economic agenda report on access to capital here.

Wafa Kanan, chief strategist of Unique Image

Every business sets its sights on making it rain greenbacks, but LA-based marketing firm Unique Image decided to look past the money and build a brand around purple.

And why not base a business around the qualities of purple? After all, purple embodies strength, royalty, style and intelligence – key attributes for any successful business, especially a marketing and media agency.

As chief strategist and visionary for Unique Image, Wafa Kanan orchestrates the marketing, branding and multimedia solutions of her boutique agency.

“Unique Image offers state-of-the-art graphic solutions and brand messaging services,” Kanan said. “Our accomplished team of designers and marketers are adept branding strategists, routinely delivering the media exposure our clients crave.”

With a reach that stretches far and wide, Unique Image has created dynamic campaigns for the entertainment, health, education, tourism and technology industries.

“As a small, woman-owned business, Unique Image strives daily to reveal those diamonds in the rough and focus on unlocking a client’s true market potential,” she said.

Like every marketing and media agency, the evolution of technology has forced many to adapt quickly or sink. Unique Image has managed to elegantly embrace this change while remaining true to their mission.

“By 2011, 80 percent of our major accounts transferred their communications to digital,” Kanan said, highlighting the rapid spread of the digital sphere over many communications departments. “So we went back to the drawing board and reinvented our company’s capabilities.”

Whereas before, collateral materials, such as outdoor banners and pamphlets, used to cut it, now Unique Image embraces direct marketing and event promotion utilizing all that multimedia and technology has to offer.

“Over the past three years, Unique Image has laid out a vision of becoming an umbrella organization with state-of-the-art digital production and a creative hub in multiple formats of digital communications,” she said.

To that end, Unique Image seeks out the brightest and most cutting edge talent they can find.

“We believe this formula of aggregating the best and the brightest of creative talents within their fields provide an added value to our clientele.”

In order to attract a uniquely skilled workforce and transform into a hub of digital creativity and innovation, Kanan is in the process of investing in a nearby historical building, which she believes will be ideal for their newfound operational model.

Not every agency would be able to adapt their business model to conform to the changing needs of the communications field, but Kanan has personified all of the qualities of Unique Image’s trademark purple to create an evolving, thriving agency.

Companies might want to start thinking purple if they want to rake in the green.

With the days getting shorter and the temperature getting colder, you should be shopping smaller.

As the holiday season starts kicking into full gear, one day should especially stick out in the minds of small business owners: Small Business Saturday.

Since 2010, Small Business Saturday has been designated as a day encouraging people to shop at small businesses the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Essentially, it’s the small business version of Black Friday, and this year, the big day falls on November 29.

To commemorate the occasion and attempt to make the fifth year of Small Business Saturday the biggest one yet, Small Business Majority has launched a campaign, “Confessions of a Small Biz Shopaholic,” to encourage consumers across the country to shop small.

Leading up to Small Business Saturday, we will be posting photos from people shopping at and supporting their local small businesses as a way of spotlighting small businesses and promoting this important movement during a crucial time of year for many brick-and-mortar stores.

Whether it’s a selfie of a fun shopping adventure or a cool shot of all the goodies you snatched up at your favorite local business, we can’t wait to highlight all the small business shopaholics out there to build up momentum for this year’s Small Business Saturday.

The small business owner who sends in the most creative photo will be chosen as our grand prize winner and receive a complete revamp of their social media platforms, courtesy of Small Business Majority. And the runner up will win a free annual pass to any U.S. national park.

Speaking of social media, be sure to follow along with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see our “Confessions of a Small Biz Shopaholic” campaign in action, and be sure to join in on our conversation around Small Business Saturday using the hashtag #SmallBizShopaholic.

As you get your shop on this year, make sure you go big by shopping small!

To enter a photo into our contest, contact Dustin McManus at dmcmanus@smallbusinessmajority.org.