When you think of a small business, what comes to mind? Is it the cozy restaurant where you’ve been going for takeout and date night for the last few years? Is it the local shop that sponsors your child’s little league team? For us, it’s our colleagues, friends, and neighbors down the street who have taken the leap to start or grow a business.
In North Carolina, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees make up 44 percent of all employment in the state. That’s 1.7 million workers who are depending on small businesses to succeed. Therefore, we must do more to enrich the landscape for current entrepreneurs and pave the way for the entrepreneurs to come. To successfully do this, small business owners need to have a collective voice in the conversation.
That’s why we united with the more than 200 other business-owners and advocates who joined the NC Rural Center’s Small Business Coalition. The Coalition is actively building a base of small-business advocates working towards statewide policies that promote a more inclusive, equitable playing field for entrepreneurs, with less red tape and more opportunity, expanding access to the capital, education, and the resources necessary to support current and future entrepreneurs.
As entrepreneurs, working with the NC Small Business Coalition has given us the chance to connect with other business owners across the state. We’ve learned through these connections that while our businesses and experiences vary, we are united in our shared love of our communities–and our shared struggles in advancing a more prosperous small-business ecosystem in North Carolina.
We know that great things happen when entrepreneurs work together and have access to the resources they need to succeed. Just look towards Asheboro, where in 2021, VentureAsheboro and entrepreneurs in the region launched the midstate Black Business Accelerator, offering mentorship, training, and support to local Black entrepreneurs as they start and grow their business. In their first year, five new businesses have already emerged from the accelerator’s inaugural 24-member class.
And VentureAsheboro, launched by Dr. Jonathan Thill, and the Black Business Accelerator is just one example. At community colleges across our state are Small Business Centers that support and connect entrepreneurs to necessary capital, training, and technical assistance to embolden and empower their development. These resources, along with other entrepreneur-support organizations, are critical for the long-term viability of our small businesses.
Entrepreneurs are at the core of everything the Coalition seeks to build, and we need small-business owners to join us. Your voice, your vision, and your experience as an entrepreneur matters and is worth sharing. We all benefit from a thriving small business sector, so we all — entrepreneurs, especially — have a vested interest in making it happen. When we connect and work together with our advocates and allies, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.
Visit bit.ly/small-biz-coalition to join us and learn more about what we’re doing to ensure a brighter future for our state’s small business sector.
Vicki Lee Parker-High is the executive director of the North Carolina Business Council and is co-chair of the NC Rural Center’s Small Business Policy Task Force, and Joel McClosky is the co-owner and CEO of Four Saints Brewing Company and is a member of the Rural Center’s Small Business Coalition.