I’ve been traveling across the beautiful state of Colorado. During my journey, I’ve met a lot of small business owners that share in the frustrations that I experience as a small business owner. During this election and down economy, we as a community must change the current system to have it better for small businesses. But first, it’s important to understand the effect of small businesses on our community.
Why should we care about small businesses? Small businesses are the heart and soul of a community – they are able to efficiently provide products and services that are tailored to a specific community’s need. We all know the tragedy of the box-store – a lot of products at a low price, but not necessarily anyone who wants to help you (even though the back of their blue-jackets say they do). Those big stores are oftentimes lured into communities with attractive tax-breaks packages, and as soon as those benefits end, that store leaves the community. Small businesses are different in that they are tied to their community – the people who own small businesses generally live there in addition to working there. These people have their children in the schools that are located in the community. When small business owners pay their taxes, these taxes are going to pay for public services that they will use. They earn money to invest into houses, roads, and the hope that the community will grow and continue to provide for their time invested there. This understanding of their time and investment, makes small business owners the heart and soul of that community – they are an integral part of the economic development that takes place.
Here are two examples of small business owners that I’ve met during my journey across Colorado.
CASE A: A well-known nutritionist and health coach, Jane, has inquiries from her customers about starting to prepare meals and sell them, so these customers can have ready-made healthy meals made from local ingredients. Jane does her due diligence and goes to talk to the local health department about what she needs to do to be in compliance. The health department tells her that she has to pay three different fees for licenses. Looking through the state health department book , the bureaucrat determines that what she is doing has never been done before. The procedure then becomes to hold on everything and wait until they call her back to tell her whether or not she can operate at all. In the meantime, since Jane is going to be serving meat, the city health department tells her that she must be USDA certified – even though she gets the meat from a USDA certified and even though restaurants around the rest of city who also serve meat, do not have to be USDA certified! Jane is halted from buying raw ingredients and products (sales tax revenue for the city), and then selling healthy, ready-made meals to her customers (sales revenue for the city).
CASE B: A young entrepreneur, Tanya, has several farmers from around the area contact her because they have not been invited to participate in a newly-run market on a newly-developed part of the city called the Historic Riverwalk Project (funded by city sales tax revenue). Tanya decides that she will also start a small farmers market, where anyone is welcome to participate, providing they pay a small fee to help cover her costs. Doing her due diligence, she goes to the various City and County offices to make sure she is in compliance. To even run her market, she is required to get and pay for a background check (approx. $10) at the police department (even though she has a concealed carry permit [approx. $300]). In order to have electricity, she is required to pay a fee every week (approx. $15), for every vendor (total of approx. $60), in addition to a fee every week for the event itself (approx. $35). Furthermore, she is required to hire a certified electrician (approx. $60) every week to check the plugs that are being plugged into a building that is a city/county building which is already certified! At the first event she is told that each vendor needs to have a certified GFI plug-in or adapter to plug into the already-GFI-certified building ($20×4 = approx. $80). For an 8-week event, this is approximately $1040 just to plug in four electrical cords every week! The health department tells Tanya, that even though her vendors coming from other parts of the state have insurance and are licensed to sell food in their respective counties, they must re-certify their products with their city health department (approx. $150). This is a price that these vendors cannot afford, and decide not to come from other counties into the city for that farmers market (city sales tax revenue). The money is extracted from Tanya and her market, so she does not make enough money to realize a profit, and she decides to not bring vendors (sales tax revenue) and products and services to the community to sell their wares (sales tax revenue).
Two small examples in a growing example of what small businesses are up against in order to survive.