Overcoming Big Obstacles for Small, Minority and Women-Owned Businesses
The entrepreneurial spirit is hardwired into the DNA of millions of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Marylanders. Maryland is home to a vibrant and diverse small business community, in a wide range of industries, run by a wide range of owners. Just like opening any business anywhere else in the country, it takes a lot of commitment, community, and capital to succeed. While all new businesses face similar kinds of challenges, to our small, minority, and women-owned businesses those obstacles can be especially daunting.
“New and small business owners often face particular challenges, including lack of access to capital, insufficient business networks for peer support, investment, and business opportunities, and the absence of the full range of essential skills necessary to lead a business to survive and grow. Women and minority entrepreneurs often face even greater obstacles,” says Michigan Professor and Federal Reserve Deputy Michael S. Barr, in The Hamilton Report.
He continues, “We need to expand our rate of business formation and improve the prospects for survival and growth of young and small businesses. Increasing the rate of minority and female entrepreneurship may help to reduce the race and gender wealth gaps, to reduce income and wealth inequality, and to increase social mobility. With the United States becoming more heterogeneous, increasing business formation by minority and female entrepreneurs is critical to improving the rate of entrepreneurship overall. Thus, if we are to grow as a country, create jobs, and make progress on correcting income and wealth inequality, we need to help minority and female entrepreneurs succeed.”
In January this year on Business.org, Maryland was ranked 7th nationally in terms of small and minority owned businesses, with almost 20% of all small businesses in Maryland being owned by a minority. In support of those business owners Maryland has fielded a slate of new and enhanced programs to support them in their quest for capital.
America is home to more than 28 million small businesses that employ more than 57 million workers. And when you add owners and employees together, that’s a community of roughly 85 million hardworking Americans dependent on the success of small business—most of the private-sector workforce. And it is about more than the numbers, small business owners are inspiring, and at some level they perfectly define the American dream.
“My father was a business owner and entrepreneur and I saw him build something out of nothing.” Says April Williams, Owner of Kennedy Consulting Group, a small business consulting firm and founder of Harmony Lemonade.
“He only had a 3rd grade education, but he was determined and had the ability to build and maintain relationships; those are the two key points of inspiration that I carry everyday day.”
Small businesses are essential to the state and the country’s financial and spiritual wellbeing, they are our most prolific job creators, contributing as much as 2/3 of new job creation. But taxes and burdensome regulations can be especially challenging for small and minority employers in providing employee benefits, finding financing, and recruitment and retention hindering their growth and job creation. But it isn’t easy.
“Running a business is constant,” says Williams, “the work is always there and in need of your attention. My greatest challenge is balancing the needs of the business with the need to practice self-care. I am much better at this these days and I've learned how to recognize when it's time to recharge.”
The state of Maryland, recognizing the uphill battle these entrepreneurs face seeking has flattened one obstacle to growth for small, medium, and underserved businesses with a new program called MarylandSaves, a free and easy retirement savings program. MarylandSaves gives small business owners a way to offer a retirement savings plan for their employees, in turn helping them to recruit and retain employees at no additional cost and limited demand on the precious time and energy of the owner.
Helping small businesses overcome big obstacles and to keep recharging is a benefit to us all.