Small businesses can be a huge benefit for the economy. Experts in a hearing Thursday explained why communities should do more to foster them small business growth.
The House Small Business Committee hosted the hearing to examine how important community support is to cultivating entrepreneurship and small business success. The hearing also explored how a thriving entrepreneurship culture can, in turn, improve communities.
Small businesses can be supported by communities in many different ways. Communities might have training and investments coming from the private-sector or support services and development programs coming from the government. It’s also important to have the right infrastructure and culture already in place.
“Business success is predicated on many factors,” Stephanie Carter, who testified on behalf of the Association of Women’s Business Centers, said during the hearing. “What is undeniable, however, is that those businesses that have a network of support behind them, fare better than those without.”
Carter adds such communities offer more expertise to help businesses as they launch and grow. Additionally, a community that understands and supports the business could help in spotting new opportunities for development. The culture can also create confidence and a drive to be entrepreneurial.
Ara Bagdasarian, who spoke on behalf of the Small Business Development Center, helped to create a framework that communities could adapt intended to foster entrepreneurship and small business growth. He developed it by working with private and public partners while exploring ways to boost development in Leesburg, Virginia.
“The fruits of this effort, I believe, have yielded a model that can be replicated in large and small communities all across America,” Bagdasarian said. “It is with this model, and others like it, that communities suffering from high unemployment or the uprooting of a key industry can plant the seeds of entrepreneurship and cultivate the growth of small businesses.”
The framework is centered on entrepreneurship education, support programs, and community engagement. Bagdasarian adds entrepreneurship can flourish once that framework is implemented – though the details will be different depending on the community.
Small business owners and entrepreneurs also have access to many different support and educational programs that exist in communities across the country. Those programs can be a huge help to entrepreneurs in the communities that have them.
Carter said during the hearing that lawmakers should expand Women’s Business Centers – which assist women in starting and growing small businesses. But there are other programs that help in supporting underserved groups of inspiring entrepreneurs as well. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), for example, helps to support veteran entrepreneurs and their spouses.
“[We’re] committed to ensuring that every service member and military spouse has the resources they need in their communities to start and operate small businesses,” Tamara Bryant, the director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center at Fayetteville State University, said. “I ask you to continue to support VBA services to increase the success rate of this highly skilled workforce.”
The VBA helps entrepreneurs and their spouses by providing programs and resources to help small business development. There are also training programs being implemented in communities intended to help inspiring entrepreneurs get started. MORTAR is a business accelerator that works to enable underserved entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed in their communities.
“We take risks on entrepreneurs’ abilities to start and grow businesses where others might not,” MORTAR founding member Derrick Braziel said during the hearing. “We exist because we believe there are minority men and women, especially in our inner-cities with an undeniable amount of world-changing talent.”
MORTAR helps connect minority entrepreneurs to training, technical assistance, and loans. It also partners with a group that provides workshops and mentoring known as SCORE. Braziel argues that his group and others like it are critical to helping everyone without regard for background.