Small Business Majority Blog

Small Business Matters

Lorenzo Harris, CEO of Janico Building Services

Lorenzo Harris makes a living sweeping away the dirt. But he certainly wasn’t swept away by the political rhetoric surrounding the Affordable Care Act. In fact, Harris ended up saving a sizable chunk of money and qualifying for a tax credit after enrolling in Covered California’s SHOP marketplace.

Harris is the CEO and principal of Janico Building Services, a full-service building maintenance and cleaning contractor with 40 employees, most of them part-time. The name Janico is a clever acronym of sorts, meaning janitorial company.

Before venturing into his own business, Harris worked in the computer industry prior to what he describes as the PC era, when everyone began owning a home computer. During this time, however, the entrepreneurial bug was nipping at his heels.

“One of the benefits I saw of starting my own business was independence,” he said. “The idea of owning my own company and being my own boss really intrigued me.”

Though a building services company wasn’t necessarily a true passion for Harris, his attitude about entrepreneurship offers a keen insight into his choice to start Janico.

“I’ve always felt that there’s a difference between your passion and whether a venture is viable in terms of earning a living,” he said.

A thriving business with a huge clientele now, Janico originated from humble beginnings. “During our initial stage, [my wife and I] went out and cleaned buildings by ourselves,” he said.

Coming a long way from those early days 27 years ago, Harris has made Janico Building Services into a premiere service for businesses across Northern California. Of course, being the principal of one’s own business comes with many administrative duties, arguably none bigger than healthcare.

Harris was actively involved in transferring Janico’s full-time employees over from their existing company plan to SHOP, California’s new small business marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act. SHOP allows small employers to sign up online and enroll their employees for health coverage. The process did require Harris to get his hands a little dirty to ensure all his employees received coverage, though.

“One of our employees was declined dependent coverage on the website and had to submit a paper application, which was approved,” he said.

The extra work paid off, though. Harris saw Janico’s premium costs go down by a sizeable 35% when he enrolled through Covered California’s SHOP marketplace and even qualified for a healthcare tax credit of more than $1,000.

Now Harris is able to continue providing health coverage for all his full-time employees, something he began to worry about as healthcare costs continued to skyrocket before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.

“It allows us to offer more affordable coverage to our employees in the short term which makes us more competitive in the long run, particularly against larger competitors,” he said.

It’s safe to say Harris and his business cleaned up quite nicely thanks to the healthcare law and the new small business marketplace.

National Small Business Week is fast approaching (May 12-16), and we want to showcase the amazing small business owners across the country who work hard all year long making their communities and our economy strong. And how do we want to showcase you?

By hosting a photo contest, of course!

Show us what it is you and your small business do every day through a photo of your choice. Gather your employees and take a team snapshot, make a homemade sign for your business or take some candids of you and your employees hard at work and send those pictures to us. You can submit your photos by email to dmcmanus@smallbusinessmajority.org.

The more creative you can be, the better! You’ve got from now until Friday, May 9 to get those photos to us so we can pick our winners. We’ll choose 5 winners, one of which will be featured on our website and social media platforms each day during Small Business Week. And because we know we’ll be getting some great submissions, we will look to feature additional businesses in the future as well!

Be sure to check out some of last year’s winners on our Facebook page to see all the awesome things small business owners have done in the past. Think you can top them? Then get ready to smile and say cheese!

As part of our Talking Back Tuesday series, Small Business Majority is launching a new survey each week to get a better understanding of where small business owners stand on important issues.

This week’s issue is employment nondiscrimination. Our polling found that over 2/3 of entrepreneurs believe federal law should prohibit employment discrimination against gay and transgender people, while 70% of small business owners in states without such policies believe their state should have laws banning this type of discrimination. Now we want to hear from you directly. Take our survey and let us know your thoughts on employment nondiscrimination.

Interested in keeping the conversation around employment nondiscrimination going? Feel free to share our survey with your friends and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. You can share more of your thoughts by  joining in on our #talkbacktues discussion.

online poll by Opinion Stage

Erika Feinberg, CEO of ActiveForever

Erika Feinberg’s entire professional life revolves around the promotion of wellness and a healthy, active lifestyle, all while wearing a smile.

Feinberg, CEO and “Chief Happiness Officer” of ActiveForever, heads the nation’s largest eCommerce provider of medical, safety, fitness and productivity products.

“I’ve always been amazed by the human body,” she said. “Due to my upbringing, I’ve always had a profound appreciation for life, as well.”

That passion, and her nearly 10 years in the tech industry, led Feinberg to become very well known in business circles in Scottsdale. “I was encouraged by several of the business leaders here in Arizona to break off and start my own company,” she said.

She went back to her human health interest as inspiration for starting ActiveForever. “I wanted to leap into healthcare, but not into the heart of the regulated aspects of it,” she said. “We wanted a different type of customer and business.”

Stretching far beyond just an online retailer, ActiveForever serves as a fully integrated sales, marketing, warehousing and shipping agency. The company actively seeks out manufacturers who want to focus heavily on production and innovation in the health and wellness industry as partners. ActiveForever then swoops in to assist with sales and marketing duties, making for a truly collaborative effort between them and their vendors.

“We are an absolute dream come true for any credible organization launching or reinvigorating a product line into our niche, and wants tech infrastructure, marketing, sales and logistics off their plate,” she said.

That niche includes anything from fitness products like exercise equipment, to safety and wellness products like crutches and safety ramps.

It’s not enough to just promote an active lifestyle, though. For Feinberg, it also means embracing one and living it herself.

“If I’m going to live life, I’m going to make it the best life possible for my family and for everyone I touch, which requires health and energy,” she said.

That lifestyle also extends to mental health and well-being, which is why Feinberg tackles her work with a positive, can-do attitude. She didn’t just give herself the title “Chief Happiness Officer,” she earned it.

Feinberg, also known as the company's "Chief Happiness Officer," outside of ActiveForever's Scottsdale, AZ base

The genesis of that title came after a particularly brutal business day with all sorts of vendor, customer and employee issues, Feinberg recalls. “I ran around helping solve one issue at a time, and at the end of the day I said, ‘There…now everyone is happy!’ One of my managers called me the Chief Happiness Officer, and at that moment, we all agreed that’s what it’s all about.”

With the right attitude and right business in place, it was time for Feinberg to carve out her place in the industry.

“Nothing excites me more than brilliant collaborations and making an impact,” she said. “Much of my success is due to my desire to turn left when everyone is turning right.”

That fresh approach has led ActiveForever to become a market leader in the health and wellness industry. With perfectionist standards, ActiveForever has now become the go-to business for wellness vendors who not only want to launch products, but want a proven sales track record and a fulfilling partnership.

“It’s easier to be a copycat, but we’re not. We’ve had to invest in a tremendous amount of operational infrastructure to [live up] to our standards,” she said.

And with more than a million customers nationwide, Feinberg says ActiveForever’s next goal is to get to know its clientele better. “We sincerely want to make all of their lives better,” she said.

If one person can help get people healthy and happy, it’s ActiveForever’s Chief Happiness Officer herself. After all, nothing’s more infectious than a smile.

As part of our Talking Back Tuesday series, Small Business Majority is launching a new survey each week to get a better understanding of where small business owners stand on important issues.

This week’s issue is family medical leave. Our polling has found 4 out of 5 small business owners support the Family Medical Leave Act allowing employees to take job-protected leave. Now we want to hear from you directly. Take our survey and let us know your thoughts on family medical leave.

Interested in keeping the conversation around family medical leave going? Feel free to share our survey with your friends and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can share more of your thoughts by  joining in on our #talkbacktues discussion.

online poll by Opinion Stage