My mom owned a shop that carried greeting cards, balloons and flowers in Tucson at Fort Lowell and Campbell for six years. I helped by managing the accounts receivable and payable, as well as making balloon deliveries across our great city. My main takeaway, and this statement will come as a complete understatement to all business owners, is that running a business is hard work!
Small businesses come in all shapes and sizes. Some are retail operations occupying 3,000 square feet like my mom’s store. Some are restaurants that serve delicious meals. Some are accountants enjoying a slight breather after a busy tax season. Some are innovators designing the next product that will make our lives a little easier. No matter what they are, behind every small business’s front door is a team of individuals working hard to sell their product and attract new customers.
For more than 50 years, the Small Business Administration has proclaimed the week ending May 11 as National Small Business Week. The week is “meant to highlight the importance of entrepreneurs and small business owners across the United States.”
Everyone is encouraged to shop at small and local businesses and a variety of Small Business Week events are occurring in cities across the country.
We all have a connection to small businesses. According to the SBA, over half of Americans either own or work for a small business. All people reading this article count on small businesses for many of life’s necessities. Did you know that 81 percent of gas stations are independently owned? So each time you fill up your tank, you support a small business owner.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not easy operating a small business, so for those business owners who need a little help along the way, there are many programs available. Here at the Tucson Metro Chamber, we have more than 60 events throughout the year that help make business-to-business connections, educational sessions to teach small businesses efficiencies and changes in business regulations and hiring events that connect talented individuals to job opportunities.
The SBA has several programs tailormade to many different types of businesses:
SCORE: Free business mentoring from more than 10,000 mentors nationwide that provide guidance through their own business experiences.
Small Business Development Centers: Helps construct business plans, conducting market research and access to loans and capital.
Women’s Business Center: Housed locally within the YWCA, this center provides guidance for women looking to start a business or counselling to help grow their business.
U.S. Export Assistance Center: Trade professionals help businesses, through counselling and services, to help those companies that need to export a service or product.
Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers: Counselling is provided to transitioning service members, veterans, National Guard & Reserve members and military spouses interested in starting or growing a small business.
Add in programs offered to small businesses by the State of Arizona, Pima County and the City of Tucson, and you’ll find several individuals who are there to help small businesses grow and thrive. Our recently announced partnership with StartUp Tucson is meant to connect new companies with established companies to provide cross-mentorship because established businesses can share experience, and new businesses can share new ways of looking at things.
The Tucson Metro Chamber’s Small Business Day occurs this year on Friday, Sept. 13, when we hold our Copper Cactus Awards Celebration. We honor those small businesses who go above and beyond in the areas of workforce development, best place to work, business growth, innovation and non-profit/charity. We also award a Business Leader of the Year who is judged on productivity in relation to sales, creativity and innovation in the workplace and their activity in the community. You can learn more about our Copper Cactus Awards, which we have held for more than 20 years, at tucsonchamber.org/copper-cactus-awards.
When you’re finished reading this, I urge you to head out and support a small local business owner! Attend our Copper Cactus Awards Celebration that honor our hard-working small businesses, too. If my mom still owned her shop, I’d nominate her for a Copper Cactus.
Michael Guymon is the Tucson Metro Chamber Vice President.