Small Business Majority Blog

Small Business Matters

This is a guest post from the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

It’s open enrollment season once again – and that means that employers and employees all across the country are considering their new health insurance options! Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there are many new options available, particularly for small businesses and their employees.

  • Small employers can provide health insurance through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) and may be eligible for a tax credit towards the cost of premiums.
  • Even if small employers don’t offer coverage, employees may qualify for financial help to purchase their own health insurance and should enroll before January 31, 2016!
  • LGBT employers and employees also benefit from new nondiscrimination protections, equal access to family coverage and financial help for married same-sex couples, and equal access to preventive care for transgender people, among other benefits.

These changes are already making a big difference for LGBT-owned businesses like Left Bank Books. Left Bank Books is the oldest and largest independently-owned bookstore in St. Louis and has a diverse staff of 17 employees whose ages range from 22 to 63.

Health insurance has always been a priority to co-owners, Jarek and Kris, but their group was so small that previous plans covered little and were extremely expensive.  So, in 2014, they visited the SHOP marketplace and, with the help of a broker, found a plan where they pay lower monthly premiums (about $350 per person per month) and have lower deductibles than they’d ever had before.

Kris and JarekThe coverage isn’t perfect – Jarek and Kris couldn’t purchase a plan that offered trans-inclusive health care, a priority for them and their staff, and the state’s largest hospital is out-of-network – but the coverage has been a definite improvement over previous options.

“Health insurance is a very important and personal issue for me as an employer, a colleague, and a trans man,” said Jarek. “The Affordable Care Act is about much more than health insurance for our community – it’s a civil rights law that helps protect those that are most vulnerable, and we at Left Bank Books want to be a part of that.”

Employers can enroll through the SHOP marketplace at any time during the year (and minimum participation and contribution requirements waived through December 15th, 2015). If your employees need coverage, they can sign up now through healthcare.gov – the final deadline to enroll for coverage is January 31, 2016.

For more information on the specific benefits of health reform for LGBT small business owners, please visit this fact sheet from NGLCC, Out2Enroll, and the Small Business Majority and visit Out2Enroll.org. Left Bank Books is a member of Small Business Majority’s Small Business Council.

Paid leave has been a hot topic lately, with several new initiatives and laws in the works around the country and in the D.C. region. Maryland’s Montgomery County recently approved a law allowing employees to accrue a limited number of paid sick days, and D.C. is weighing a law that would provide up to 16 weeks of family leave. Some critics are arguing that paid leave laws are bad for small businesses – but the reality is that many small business owners believe paid leave policies help them attract and retain talented employees, which is good for their bottom line.

Small Business Majority has held multiple roundtables in D.C. and Maryland to have candid conversations with small business owners on paid leave. We’ve found that many small employers are actually in favor of paid leave because it can boost employee morale and increase worker productivity. Additionally, Small Business Majority’s polling found 50 percent of small business owners would support a paid sick leave law.

The bottom line is that for many small business owners, new paid leave laws are good for business. As policymakers weigh paid leave legislation, it’s important to listen to real small business owners – not partisan pundits.

 

 

Saturday, November 28 marked Small Business Saturday – an important time to shop locally and support our nation’s small businesses during the holiday shopping season. In recognition of Small Business Saturday, many small businesses offered discounts and specials to encourage people to shop small. Total spending at small businesses on Small Business Saturday reached an impressive $16.2 billion, up from $14.3 billion in 2014.

Small businesses around the country – like Hopscotch Bakery in Pueblo, Colo. – offered fun Small Business Saturday swag so patrons could let everyone know they supported entrepreneurs by shopping small. Other businesses – like Wade Creek House Antiques in Estacada, Ore. – offered discounts and prizes to customers.

Small Business Majority got in on the action too. Many of our team members stopped by small businesses to show their support, and we promoted Small Business Saturday throughout our social media channels and provided free marketing resources for small businesses.

In celebration of Small Business Saturday, we also issued our first annual regional Small Business Advocate Awards to small business owners around the country who have gone above and beyond as advocates for policies that help small businesses thrive. Award recipients included:

Even though Small Business Saturday only happens once a year, it’s important that we always take time to support entrepreneurs – no matter what they season. Their hard works keeps our economy and communities vibrant, and they deserve our business.

While working towards an engineering degree in college, Matthew Hollis quickly realized his real interest wasn’t in memorizing equations or the laws of thermodynamics, but rather in entrepreneurship and how to turn problem solving into a business. He connected with Alan Dillman, who ran a business incubator on Hollis’ college campus. The two quickly realized there was room for innovation and sustainability in the waste collection business, which inspired them to launch Elytus, a waste management company based in Columbus, Ohio.

Elytus is a different type of waste management company. Elytus operates under the motto of “Waste Nothing,” which translates to saving customers time and money while also maximizing sustainability. By streamlining processes and helping clients procure and manage services like solid waste and recycling, grease trap cleaning, fry oil recovery, exhaust hood cleaning and pest control, Elytus has saved clients more than $11 million while also saving nearly 20 million trees through recycling.

“We really try to be a comprehensive resource for our clients,” said Hollis. “We help them handle environmental services through every step of the process, from procurement to payment. Our goal is for our customers to feel like Elytus is their partner, not just a service provider.”

Hollis and Dillman both say that their employees are crucial to their company’s success. Like many small businesses, Elytus strives to treat employees like family, which has resulted in an impressively low turnover rate.

“As with most companies, our employees are our best assets,” said Dillman. “We want our employees to stick with us, so we’re committed to investing in them. For us, that means providing training and really helping them grow as professionals.”

Today, Elytus has served major clients like Omnicare and Cinemark. There’s no doubt the company will continue expanding and promoting sustainable waste solutions for clients across the country.

For Adam Rochon, supplying benefits and insurance is a family business. Rochon followed his mother, Belinda Roberts, into the insurance and benefits industry and today they have a collective 28 years of insurance experience. After the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, businesses began to require a more in-depth broker relationship and a knowledgeable source of information for coverage. That’s when Rochon and Roberts decided to launch their own agency, Sequoia Employee Benefits & Insurance Solutions, better known as Sequoia Solutions. Sequoia Solutions specializes in implementing benefit plan models and business solutions for companies of all sizes.

What makes Sequoia Solutions stand out from their peers is the firm’s philosophy of being in the relationship business, not the transaction business. By focusing on building long-term relationships rather than selling products to businesses, their clients receive the services and products that work best for them. Because Sequoia Solutions is family-owned, their clients know they can count on the company to be around for a long time and will stay in trusted hands.

“We cultivate relationships with our clients in ways that a lot of agencies are unable to do, and I think that’s why we have been so successful,” said Rochon. “We’ve worked with a lot of our clients for many years. This means we know our clients very well and they trust us to help them navigate through all the external changes that affect them and their employees. They also know we’re here to help guide them as their own business needs evolve.”

Rochon is also committed to staying abreast of best practices in the insurance field and advocating for health insurance improvements. He’s involved with the California Association of Health Underwriters, and is currently the President-Elect of the Central California Chapter. He also works closely with lawmakers in California and D.C. to help them understand and make improvements to regulations that impact the Affordable Care Act.

“For me, it’s not only important to be aware of the changes in the insurance field,” said Rochon. “It’s just as important to pro-actively guide these changes so our legislators can better understand insurance and enact policies that will benefit my clients.”

Sequoia Solutions is based in Central California. For more information about the company, you can visit: http://sequoiasolutions.net/.