Small Business Majority Blog

Small Business Matters

Trent Smith, Executive Director of the Franklinton Board of Trade

A littered community can be a real messy affair. It stunts economic growth, repels consumers and tourists and turns the community into an unpleasing eyesore.

Enter Trent Smith. Tired of seeing the negative repercussions of a littered community, Smith is looking to take Columbus, Ohio straight to the cleaners with the Franklinton Board of Trade’s (FBOT) new Green Initiative.

Smith is starting a commercial recycling pilot project where he will personally go around and collect the recycling of local participating businesses in the Columbus area for free in efforts to make the town more green, and to see if the initiative gains traction with businesses to the point where they’ll pay for the service on their own.

“The main goal is to keep the neighborhood clean and do that by diverting waste from the land fill,” Smith said of the Green Initiative.

Birthed from a membership luncheon last summer that featured guest speakers from Columbus GreenSpot and the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio (SWACO), FBOT became a GreenSpot and urged its members to follow suit. By becoming a GreenSpot, businesses, households and groups commit to living and working greener.

Coming from an individual’s perspective, the prospect of reduce, reuse and recycle seems like a piece of cake. But it’s easier said than done for a lot of businesses, Smith found.

“Some members lamented that they would like to recycle, but sometimes the effort was just too consuming,” he said. “Our hope is to help businesses accomplish their recycling goals.”

This is especially important for a community like Franklinton, which has a lot of trash and very little being done in an effort to clean it up.

“Our hope is that this type of initiative will help raise and sustain awareness of the negative impacts that come with a littered community. [We] have a specific concern with litter in that it makes potential businesses think twice about locating here when they see trash everywhere.”

The Green Initiative’s crusade to clean and beautify its community has already been met with rapturous approval from locals.

“We get a lot of great feedback that people appreciate the effort. People feel like the neighborhood is cleaner just knowing that there are attempts to address the problem.”

By setting an example for living cleaner and greener, Smith hopes the Green Initiative and FBOT’s efforts will trickle down to a greater sense of responsibility for individuals and local businesses when they realize the impact such measures have had on the community.

Smith points out that “getting businesses to actually adopt their own policies around recycling and litter awareness as a reflection on the community” is a huge step moving forward.

If Smith has his way, the Columbus area will truly become a greener pasture.

Some people are made to be leaders. At the tender age of 25, Ricardo Sibrian has bought into a restaurant franchise and now owns and operates it. He’s lighting his own torch, and looking to carry it forward like the true leader he is.

Sibrian’s Perkos Farm Fresh Café, located in Sacramento, CA, is an all-American diner experience. The man behind the restaurant is a millennial Hispanic entrepreneur, blazing a path toward conquering the restaurant world.

“I think leaders were born to be leaders,” Sibrian declared. “I am 25-years-old and being my own boss is a thing of beauty.”

As the master of his domain, Sibrian has turned Perkos Café into an upscale family restaurant, while staying true to local tastes and flavors. He strives to strike a balance between innovative recipes that keep the menu diverse, while providing traditional, crowd-pleasing meals that appeal to a wide variety of palettes.

“I love what I do,” he said. “I enjoy cooking food for people because I know I can change somebody’s day, by giving them a great experience.”

Though he’s already accomplished so much at such a young age, it was never a straight-shot to where he is today. Sibrian, a Bay Area native, worked in the corporate world until stepping into the restaurant business at age 20.

“I started as a dishwasher and I worked my way up to management within 6 months,” he said. “I was trained to open restaurants for Perkos corporate, and then decided to take over.”

That innate, natural ability to take charge has not come at the cost of his compassion and genuine desire to provide the best service around. An iron fist Sibrian does not use to rule.

“I will say one of the unique challenges with owning a business is not only trying to keep customers happy, but also to make sure the employees are very well taken care of,” he said. “One of the things I like doing the most is giving them an incentive so they are always motivated and willing to go the extra mile.”

With loyal employees and a happy clientele, Sibrian is in a prime position to take his leadership skills to the next level. Which is great, seeing as his aspirations are anything but small.

“Within the next five years, I see myself owning three more restaurants.”

The trail he’s blazed for himself thus far and his unwavering forward trajectory should make those dreams a reality soon enough.

While your typical person may spot a nail salon and think of manis and pedis, Robert Pancoast and Julie Tobias-Pancoast thought of pizza.

The two spent four months planning and constructing in order to transform a derelict nail salon in Walnut Creek, CA into Pancoast Pizza, a pizzeria promising to bring a slice of the East Coast to Californians.

Robert and Julie are a husband and wife duo who come from culinary backgrounds and met while attending the Western Culinary Institute in Portland. Robert had been doing construction since the recession, and they capitalized on his skills to makeover a salon for lease into their own pizzeria.

“We are both professional chefs that opened several restaurants so we had some experience under our belts,” Julie Tobias-Pancoast said.

The Pancoasts always had aspirations to open their own restaurant, and one in particular had experience working with Italian pies.

“My husband grew up working at his local pizza shop in the suburbs of Philly. He always enjoyed making it. We always wanted to open a restaurant but knew a full-serve, high variety menu would be insane, [so we’re] keeping it simple,” she said.

Co-owner Robert Pancoast hand-tossing dough for one of Pancoast's specialty pizzas.

Beyond lifelong dreams and professional training, Pancoast isn’t shy about listing another crucial reason why Pancoast Pizza’s conception was vital.

“We knew there was a market [for Pancoast Pizza] because we stopped eating pizza out around here because it was a disgrace to pizza.”

Thems fighting words, and with talk like that, the Pancoasts had to really deliver when it came to the slices they were whipping up. Luckily, with two professional chefs at the helm and consultation from 40-year culinary veteran Robert Mott, Pancoast Pizza crafted a truly enticing, and most importantly, delicious menu.

“Our pizzas are baked in a real oven, not run through a conveyor belt oven, stretched by hand and hand-tossed, and our sauce is prepared in-house daily,” she said.

Some of those top-notch, specialty pizzas that fly out of ovens into the mouths of customers include the White Cap, a popular slice with a garlic sauce base and topped with smoked chicken, spinach and bacon, and the Esquared, a robust offering topped with both Italian meatballs and sweet Italian sausage.

The White Cap, one of Pancoast's most popular pies.

Doing pizza her own way and being in the pilot’s seat are some of the many perks of operating her own pizzeria for Pancoast. Coming from the women who put her local pizza offerings to shame, it should be no surprise that her favorite part of being a business owner is “controlling the product and image, and not deferring to anyone.”

With their sights set on expanding to four more locations in the future, the Pancoasts are out to save us all, one slice at a time.

The president’s State of the Union speech last night touched on many of small business owners’ key concerns, particularly increasing consumer demand by strengthening the middle class, closing corporate tax loopholes and ensuring open and fair Internet access for all. What’s more, the president highlighted the importance of small businesses and the middle class—the engine of small business prosperity.

Small business job creation significantly outperformed that of big businesses in 2014. Creating smart policies that support our nation’s job creators and their middle-class customer base is the most common sense way to ensure our economy continues down a pathway to prosperity.

Unfortunately though, small businesses too often find their needs being subordinated to those of big business, and sometimes even hijacked to support polices that don’t benefit them or their middle-class customers. We know from our polling that consumer demand is the top concern for small business owners, and one of the best ways to create that demand is to strengthen the middle class. According to the Public Affairs Council, 68 percent of respondents say they prefer to shop at local small businesses. But in order to get more people into local stores and restaurants, we need smart economic policies that will bolster our nation’s job creators and their middle-class customer base.

While we would have liked to see some more small business-friendly proposals in the president’s remarks, including ones that address access to capital, a healthcare marketplace that works and policies that create greater demand for their goods and services, many of the plans the president outlined are ones small business owners support, including:

  • Closing corporate tax loopholes that put small businesses at a disadvantage, and cutting the top corporate tax rates. Small Business Majority’s opinion polling found 75 percent of entrepreneurs believe their small business is harmed when big corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes, and 90 percent believe big corporations use loopholes to avoid taxes that small businesses have to pay.
  • Expanding broadband in rural areas and ensuring a fair and open Internet, which will help drive business growth, entrepreneurship and job creation. Small Business Majority’s polling found 59 percent of small businesses support creating a nationwide wireless network and expanding access to high-speed wireless services.
  • Calling on Congress to work together to find solutions to reform the immigration system, something small business owners support. Small business owners recognize our current immigration system is broken and believe fixing it will help them foster a better workforce and stronger economies.

While the president’s speech highlighted many of the issues small employers see as vital to our economic success, we need lawmakers to start acting on policies that level the playing field for small firms and put them in a position to succeed. By taking action on smart policies like these, lawmakers can help the small business community and middle class grow and thrive.

As we enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, here at Small Business Majority we’re celebrating a very successful 2014. And with a new Congress coming to Washington in January, we’re looking forward to continuing our efforts on the small business front in 2015.  See below for some of our biggest accomplishments from the past year.

  • This year we conducted polling on several new topics such as workforce training, election reform, retirement security and patent reform, while increasing our outreach work in clean energy, minimum wage and entrepreneurship.
  • We continued our extensive outreach efforts informing small businesses about the healthcare law. Small Business Majority outreach staff conducted more than 550 outreach events in 2014, including webinars in both English and Spanish
  • We released our inaugural edition of the Economic Agenda for America’s Futurea set of short and long-term policy recommendations government leaders can follow to ensure an environment where entrepreneurs and our economy can thrive. What’s more, we launched our Entrepreneurship Program to deliver resources and information to entrepreneurs in key areas of running a small business.
  • We spearheaded a campaign garnering more than 160 pledges of support from small business owners willing to help create opportunities for unemployed youth. Small Business Majority staff joined former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on stage to announce our commitment to get 100 small employers to sign a pledge to create job opportunities for young people.
  • Small Business Majority paved the way for a host of scientific polling exploring small business owners’ opinions on raising the minimum wage. We followed up our successful media release with a series of online guides in several states to help small employers understand how efforts to raise the minimum wage would impact their businesses, and the state’s economy on the whole.
  • Last but not least, Small Business Majority continued to grow in 2014. We’re now a team of 33, staffing 14 offices in 10 states and Washington, D.C. In August, we announced our expansion into three regions, which has allowed us to continue building on our successful regional and state-based approach that is already at the core of our work.

For additional highlights from 2014, check out our new end of year report and our video outlining our biggest accomplishments of the year.

We wish you all the best this holiday season and look forward to working with you on the small business front in 2015!