By George Farris
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Imagine you’re the owner of a small business who attends an event with many other small-business owners. You’ve never met most of them.
It’s a diverse group of people: male and female, old and young, Black and White. Their businesses are diverse too: bakery, crafts and hobbies, shoe store, flea market, restaurant, fitness centers, fashion boutiques and more. Some have been in business just over a year, some over 30 years.
Everyone is here for the Western Reserve Transit Authority kickoff for the Give Small Business a Lift awareness campaign. At first, it seems like you don’t have much in common with the others. They are random strangers. But as you hear their stories, you realize there is a connection among all the business owners. You’ve all faced many of the same problems; you’ve all put in long hours.
Upon recognizing this, these random strangers seem like they are part of some sort of extended family. This group is beginning to seem like a family reunion instead of an inaugural meeting.
At this event, your new “family members” include the dozen honored businesses gathered for the kickoff of the inaugural WRTA Give Small Business a Lift campaign held April 28: Cornersburg Italian Specialties, Peaberry’s Cafe, One Step Forward, the Youngstown Flea, Next Level Fitness Academy, Sarah’s Ceramics, Send It Packin’, Fancey’s Boutique, The TakeOut, Laugh and Learn Academy and Sugarpan Bakery. They were chosen as examples of the Mahoning Valley entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic.
Small business has a huge impact on the local economy. The Western Reserve Transit Authority provides transportation to a good amount of the workforce and customers of these businesses. WRTA invested in the campaign to encourage Valley residents to support local small business.
WRTA began promoting and sharing the stories of these businesses on buses, social media, TV and more May 1 – in coordination with National Small Business Week to give the enterprises exposure. At the same time, WRTA is asking you to “Give local small business a lift!” by patronizing them.
SMALL BUSINESS = BIG RISK
It’s easy to start a business. But it’s not easy to stay in business…and succeed. When you are just starting out, you think all you need are the “Two P’s” (passion and a plan).
Any successful small-business owner knows you need a third “P” – perseverance. Staying in business – successfully overseeing its growth – is very challenging.
According to the Small Business Administration, there are nearly 32 million small businesses in the United States. That’s a huge number. That number would be larger if it weren’t for the substantial failure rate.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show 20% of U.S. small businesses fail within their first year. Half fail by the end of their fifth year. After 10 years, almost 66% have disappeared. Only one in three makes it. Two-thirds of small businesses eventually fail.
WHY START A BUSINESS?
With such high risks, why would anyone start a small business? If you asked the 12 business owners honored at the kickoff, if you asked Andrea Wood, publisher of The Business Journal (campaign co-sponsor), or asked me, you might be surprised to learn that none of us was seeking fame and fortune. Most small businesses are started by people who simply want to be successful at doing something they like to do.
Does that sound foolish? Are we just an extended family of crazy risk-takers? Maybe.
But we have great reunions.
George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing.