Last week 15 small business owners from Washington State graduated from the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders Program here in Seattle. For the third year in a row, I have had the privilege of teaching the class with my partner, Melanie Norton, from the SBA. The curriculum, provided by Interise, is an amazing journey for most small entrepreneurs. The result of the 7-month course is that each business walks away with a strategic growth plan that they can implement, (and most do). Interise and the SBA have shown this to be one of the most effective uses of taxpayer money because for every $200 spent a new job is created.
These facts are impressive, but the reason small business really matters is the impact that each and every small business owner has on their staff, their customers, and their communities. All of the participants in all three years have been amazing and inspiring and this year was no different. These leaders and their businesses make a difference in their communities. One of this year’s participants was Carolyn Hurst, CEO of Barker Creek Publishing in Bremerton, WA. Carolyn’s explanation of the benefits afforded the owner and every key employee of a small business is: “The opportunity to learn new skills and practice creative problem-solving…each and every day.”
Carolyn reached out to all current and former employees on Facebook to ask what working at Barker Creek meant to them. Here is just one of the more than 30 responses she got back in less than 24 hours from her employees and THIS is a fantastic example of why small business really matters:
Emily M. Where do I start??? Barker Creek gave me and SO many others the best environment possible to have one’s first job. Barker Creek always felt like a family (and still does), but you also found a way to balance that with letting employees know what being a good worker was all about. This is a hard line to walk when you care about your employees as much as you do, but you did it gracefully. I learned what being a good business woman was all about from you. It means weighing business decisions with the impact it will have on all stakeholders, taking care of your employees, and doing what you can to give back when you can. I think we can all agree that Barker Creek gave a lot of people their first job, and let them grow by giving them chances that many other businesses wouldn’t, but I also don’t want to understate what Barker Creek does as a *business*. Barker Creek has always tried it’s hardest to create the best products for schools and homeschools and takes a customer first approach that many big and small businesses struggle with implementing. This is seen with Candi‘s steadfast dedication to helping customers out all day every day, even if that means multiple phone calls to the same person within a few hours, or keeping her happy and friendly attitude in fact even if things aren’t so great for her that day. I also want to mention Tessa for teaching me and many, many others what attention to detail truly is. I think learning this really set me up for success in the programming world… I could go on and on and on!!!!!! Forever grateful for everything you have done for me, Cary!
So if you are a small business owner I salute you! I also recommend that you check out the resources available to you through the SBA including the Emerging Leaders program. My passion is to help entrepreneurs achieve their dreams and these resources are one avenue to help make those dreams a reality.