Small Business Owners Get Starring Role At Republican Convention

To a degree that surprised us, small business owners were front and center at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Tuesday night.

As we reported last week, the phrase “yes we did build it” has become a small-business rallying cry.  Some business owners have been waging protests following President Barack Obama’s comments last month on the campaign trail suggesting that the government, not entrepreneurs, had built their businesses.  The President quickly jumped in to do damage control by claiming his remarks were taken out of context, but by then the phrase had taken on a life of its own.

The convention built on the business owners’ sentiment with the theme “We Built It.”

We Built It! - Small business owner

Here are some of the “small business” highlights:

  • South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, whose parents were Indian immigrants, said “My parents started a business out of the living room of their home, and 30+ years later it was a multimillion dollar company.  But there wasn’t a single day it was easy. ***  Don’t tell me that my parents didn’t build their business.”
  • Denny Sollmann, owner of Sollmann Electric Company, an Ohio small business said in a taped presentation “… you have no idea how we here in Midwestern Ohio have to try to run a small business from daylight ’til night.”
  • “People, not government, create jobs,” said Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who claimed his state’s reforms have already gone a long way to helping small businesses thrive, improving employment and the general economic climate.

Interestingly, taxation wasn’t the main issue brought up by the business owners.  Instead, regulatory burdens, fiscal responsibility, governmental obstacles and the struggles of starting a business were more often mentioned.

  • Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who spoke about the red tape and regulations that small businesses face, is a small business owner along with her husband.  Together they started a landscaping and snowplowing business.  “We are no different from most families who take risks starting their own business. *** We had to make it work.”
  • She introduced Jack Gilchrist (pictured above) of New Hampshire, a small business owner who employs 40 people.  The business was built by his father about whom she said “and yes, he did build it.”  Gilchrist addressed the floor in person, saying “small business needs a leader.”
  • Said the owner of Sakata Farms in Colorado in a video presentation: “The statement… that we as a small business did not make it on our own .. is completely nonsense.  My name is Bob Sakata and my family and my employees built this.”

There were a few lighter moments, too. While a news commentator was speaking from the convention floor, a woman business owner behind him held up a small whiteboard on which she had written an impromptu ad for her business: “ I built this, Mr. Pres!”

The coverage of the major television networks and cable news channels tended to underplay the small-business focus.  They often cut to commercials or commentators when business owners spoke.  C-SPAN has comprehensive video coverage, in case you want to catch more of the small business sentiment.

8 Reactions
  1. Small business is finally getting it due on the national stage. I think the President’s remarks had the unintended consequence of highlighting the small business owner and the hard work it takes to build a company.

    • Hi Kip,

      And as I pointed out in our article last week, according to a Gallup poll from earlier this year, small business owners are the LEAST-approving group of the President’s performance.

      Although the mainstream media hasn’t been reporting on the small-business-owner protest phenomena because it doesn’t fit their narrative — it’s real.

      – Anita

  2. Small business does drive the economy and is underappreciated. Despite it’s flaws, America has the best and most supportive environment for business in the world. Given that, I am dismayed that Obama’s comment has been taken so out of context. In his speech he wasn’t discounting the work and risk that entrepreneurs take on. He was saying that SBO’s can’t create a business solely on their own. They were inspired by teachers/mentors, rely on a great education system and infrastructure, have a capable and productive work force and enjoy a society that embraces success and entrpreneurism. We have patent laws to protect our ideas. Essentially one man or woman cannot create a successful busines without the interactions of others and relying on the infrastructure (public and private) to get our goods and serices to market. Without that, SBO’s would face a much more difficult road.

    • Small business owners are smart enough to understand the President’s remarks. They are also smart enough to realize political hay is being made with the statement. I’m in Ohio and turning on the television these days is a downright painful process to be avoided most of the time. Why? We’re bombarded with competing political ads. First an Obama ad, then a Romney ad — back to back! Try to turn the channel to avoid them, and you run into a set of dueling PAC ads. Try another channel, and you’re back to dueling candidate “approved this message” ads.

      Business owners know political messaging is going on — by both sides.

      I have a different theory about why “You didn’t build that” rang in the ears of small business owners so specifically. My theory is that the reason the statement became a rallying cry is that it’s a sign of much deeper unhappiness, as I pointed to in the Gallup poll results (taken before the comment) in which small biz owners are the LEAST approving of this Administration’s performance. As they see it, the full context of his remarks is that this Administration believes government is a solution. Many small business owners don’t see government as a solution — they see it as a part of the problem. It leads to hiring more bureaucrats, who impose more regulations on small businesses to justify their existence, and it leads to higher costs that ultimately have to be paid for by business owners in the form of taxes.

      So, yes, I agree that it has to be taken in context. But so does the reaction of small business owners have to be taken in context — the context of their reality. It’s not a simple matter of misunderstanding or pulling words out of context – that belies the intelligence of business owners who know when politics are going on.

  3. Wow Anita, someone is firing your rockets! I don’t know how anyone can “spin” the Presidents coments any other way. He specifically said “you didn’t earn that.”. And “you didn’t build that”. Nuff said. Thanks for your passion!