Swimming with the sharks in Camden

How many of you ever dreamed of owning your own business? Do you have a dream of being a CEO and taking the reins of your own empire?  Does this dream seem out of reach to you? While we can’t all be a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet we can still achieve a dream of owning our own business when we consider going small. Small businesses are the new frontier on the American business landscape. Even though Minnesota is the proud home to large corporations such as 3M, Target and General Mills, big business is not what keeps the state economy flourishing — it’s small business that is the unsung hero here. The big corporations get all the public attention, while small businesses are the quiet workhorses of our economy that steadily chug along like a small steam engine, gathering steam for free enterprise.

Small businesses have always been the engine of free enterprise that goes back to the inception of our country when small farms dotted the country side. It is just recently that small businesses began making a spectacular comeback. Suddenly what is old is new again. In the aftermath of the Great Recession it is suddenly cool to invest our creative genius and energy into inventing our own business by plunging into the water and swimming with the business sharks, albeit small sharks. Ok, they may be small, but when totaled they are a mighty force to reckon with because they represent 47.9 percent of the private sector that employs millions of people. What is also significant has been an increase in minority owned small businesses.  In a report released in 2015 by Survey of Business Owners (SBO) it showed a marked increase of 59.7 percent of African-American owned business from 2007 to 2012.

This small but mighty work force represents health care, food service, social, entertainment and manufacturing. We all know them because we shop, socialize and visit their businesses every day. We may be oblivious to their influential power but as collective, small businesses wield supreme in today’s economy. Target may be supreme among corporations but it is Camden’s own businesses like Lowry Café, NorthEnd Hardware, Victory 44, Emily’s, Haja Beauty Supply, h. white men’s barbershop, Hair Fair, Your Way Flooring, Mykono’s Coffee &Grill and Spin City Wash that keep it a vibrant neighborhood. There are 503,733 small businesses in Minnesota. The word “small” is misleading because, depending on the industry, a small business can employ up to 500 employees. Your dream of owning your own flower shop may not be too far off. They may be small but the demand for small businesses can make them successful and provide a future for an emerging entrepreneur. But this is not all roses, as they say, because creating and launching your own business that will provide for you and your family takes time, and most of all money.

Joy Mangano got rich by inventing of all things, a mop. She borrowed $100,000 to launch her Miracle Mop, and now 100 patents later she is an entrepreneur. Hollywood even made a movie starring Jennifer Lawerence that is based on her climb to fame. The path for Spanx’s inventor Sara Blakely was not a straight path to success. With little capital she used her imagination and resourcefulness to spread the news about her invention by writing her own patent and literally knocking on the doors of the hosiery industry imploring them to manufacture her product. When Neiman Marcus finally agreed to stock them in seven of their stores she sent checks to friends, who lived in those cities, and asked them to buy her product. All her hard work and inventiveness paid off because by 2012 Forbes proclaimed her the youngest female billionaire. While Mangano and Blakely are the exception when it comes to making a big splash in the small business shark tank, their example of taking their inventions from dream to reality can serve as an inspiration for all of us who wish to control our own destiny by owning our own business.

But before you rent retail space for your old world flower shop or park your food truck at Webber Park you first must do your homework. It is all about supply and demand and the old adage “know your customer” applies here. Mangano and Blakely knew their customers and understood that women would appreciate a mop that is easy to handle and a product that smooths out the lumps and bumps under slinky gowns. Both inventions were practical and tapped into consumer’s needs. And that is the key. There are professionals that can help you sort all this out and steer you in the right direction.

Sarah Swenty, Public Affairs Specialist from Small Business Administration (SBA) said, “SBA can help small businesses that many don’t know about. There are free counseling services provided by the SBA through our resource partners like SCORE, Women Venture, Meda and the SBDC. Whether business owners need help with the big picture or the finer details, there are free resources out there to help.”  The U.S. Small Business Administration was created in 1953 to assist and counsel upcoming entrepreneurs for the purpose of preserving and strengthening American free enterprise. SBA remains relevant in the marketplace through their network and partnerships of public and private businesses, and imparts this knowledge to fledgling small business owners. To get you started SBA offers a whole plethora of on-line courses through their Learning Center that will walk you through all aspects of creating, funding and launching your business to make it successful. The courses cover such topics as understanding your customer, how to create a business plan, how to prepare a loan package, patents and trademarks, marketing 101, growth development of Native American business, entrepreneurship for women and introduction to accounting – these are just a sample of the help the SBA offers to either get you started or to expand your business. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to turn their dreams into reality of controlling their own destinies by becoming small business owners.

For those who dream of owning their own business keep in mind what Albert Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” If you have a desire to create your own business contact the Small Business Administration at sba.gov and see where your imagination takes you.