Michigan small business owners call for changes to help them recover and grow

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Participants plan to push Congress to update the U.S. Small Business Act, which authorized the Small Business Administration, for the first time in 20 years and work on solutions to the seemingly endless challenges they face.

During the conference, which runs Tuesday and Wednesday, small business owners will also gain insights from business leaders, visionaries and decision makers on best practices for growing businesses and driving economic growth, hiring talent , create brands and more. This week’s event will be the first in-person summit since 2019. Scheduled speakers include Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Kimle Nailer, president of Detroit-based general contractor Nail-rite Construction and Notable Women in Construction in 2022, graduated from the Goldman Sachs program in 2020 and will be participating in this week’s events. She thinks an SBA update could change the landscape of the small business world.

“The way we do business today is different than it was 20 years ago,” said Nailer, whose company provides finish construction services to commercial businesses. “What a business can do as a startup is completely different. We need policies that support business growth and scale today. Businesses, even small ones, can be global now. It wasn’t like this 20 years ago. If the (Small Business Administration) were more modernized and relevant to the way businesses are structured today, I think more businesses would grow much faster. “

Small business owners like Nailer believe modernizing the law is also crucial to helping small businesses compete with big business. The move could simplify government procurement practices and provide smaller businesses with more opportunities to access capital.

Randy Finch, owner of Grand Rapids-based Ice Guru, who graduated from the program in 2017, said something as simple as making it easier to access online resources would help small businesses a lot.

“There needs to be better access to the resources that are already available,” said Finch, whose 33-year-old company provides ice sculptures and photo booths for events. “Big companies have so many advantages. There should be a mentoring program so that big companies can give structured advice to small companies.”

Kelly Victor-Burke, owner of Livonia-based Burke Architectural Millwork, completed the program in 2019. She wants to see the Small Business Act readjust its focus on the changed small business environment, particularly due to the coronavirus pandemic .

The Small Business Administration is unable to comment on policy or advocacy discussions, or any action by Congress before it becomes law, public affairs specialist Rachel Apple said in an email to Crain’s. .

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has caused thousands of small businesses to close, while others continue to operate limited hours with reduced staff. Inflation has affected small businesses in many ways, from big increases in the prices of goods and services to gas prices that spur businesses to get creative.

Nailer, Finch and Victor-Burke all received Paycheck Protection Program loans during the pandemic.

Victor-Burke, whose company has eight employees, received two rounds of PPPs totaling $75,800 and economic disaster loan funds, with the PPP funds cancelled. Finch and Ice Guru also received two rounds of PPP funds totaling $65,205, which he says saved his business. Nailer, whose company contracts out staff for projects, was approved for a $2,300 PPP loan but turned down the funds. Nailer was eligible for $365,000 in EIDL funds, but only received $189,000 due to a lack of funds at the time. Some Michigan small business owners have expressed concerns about funds that have not been distributed.

The three small business owners said they believe following the Goldman Sachs program has helped them navigate through the pandemic and helped them fight inflation as costs rise across the board. domains. Nailer specifically declined the small loan because of what she learned in the program.

“Most of our relationships are business-to-business. We don’t have a plumber on staff. We contract out the plumber,” Nailer said. “When I got this (PPP) loan, I thought, ‘why should I pay interest on $2,300?’ The lease on my space is $300 a month. That wouldn’t even cover my lease. .

“If I hadn’t had a frame of reference or hadn’t known my finances, I would have used that money, and it was not good money to use.”

Through Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Voices, a 2-year advocacy group that Victor-Burke is part of, Nailer secured an audience with members of Congress to voice his concerns. This week, small business owners will have more than 400 meetings with lawmakers to push for policies and legislation affecting small businesses, according to a news release. Topics to be discussed at these meetings will include access to capital, labor and competitiveness, childcare and public procurement.

Victor-Burke thinks these meetings, and the summit as a whole, could help inspire small business owners by sharing stories of how they’ve stayed afloat over the past two years.

“With all the turmoil of COVID and inflation, I think we’ll all be spurred on by each other,” Victor-Burke said. “This is a really resilient and optimistic group of business owners, so I expect the ideas that come out of this program will have some merit.”

The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program since 2010 offers education and capital programs to help entrepreneurs grow their business. The program has allocated $750 million to support small businesses across the country, reaching nearly 13,000 small business owners in all 50 states. Graduates represent more than $17 billion in income and employ 245,000 people.

The program also provides capital and capacity building grants to community development financial institutions and other mission-driven lenders, with more than $1.6 billion committed through CDFIs, reaching more than 37,000 small businesses. Goldman Sachs is committed to reaching 20,000 small businesses through this program.

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