A lot has changed in America since the 1960s and while many things are different in today’s United States, at least one of the fundamentals driving us all forward is still the same. While our values shift and IT creates realities considered science fiction back in the days of the Hippies and gas guzzling cars, the importance of small business remains one of this country’s immovable bedrocks.
That’s why celebrating National Small Business Week is as much a part of our collective experience as baseball and the Fourth of July. It’s fitting that some of the folks championing the event that runs from April 30 – May 6 are located at the Small Business Administration (SBA) in Washington D.C.
Small Business Week and the SBA
“Every year since 1963 the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing that the country should honor and recognize National Small Business Week,” Stephen Morris, Online Media Coordinator for the U.S. Small Business Administration told Small Business Trends.
“In the U.S., small business is the backbone of the economy. They create two out of three new jobs and more than half of Americans own or work for small businesses.”
The SBA has long been the main federal agency that deals with small business issues. They deal with everything from supplying advice and assistance on how to start and manage a small business to a variety of specific loan programs and guarantees as well as contracts.
The agency’s involvement with National Small Business Week stretches back to the earliest days of the event. Consider President Lyndon B. Johnson’s comments during National Small Business Week on May 24, 1965, where he specifically mentioned small business loans guaranteed by the SBA.
“Small businesses constitute more than 95 percent of all of the businesses in this country. They employ 40 percent of our entire labor force. They provide a livelihood for more than 75 million American citizens. Local development companies financed by SBA have created nearly 8,000 new jobs.”
The SBA traces its roots back to 1932, The Great Depression and the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC). This is the grandparent of the modern version of the SBA. There were several other predecessors that took shape during WWII and the Korean War. Then on July 30, 1953, Congress created the early version of the modern SBA through the Small Business Act.
The social conscious of the SBA was evident quickly. The Equal Opportunity Loan (EOL) Program was developed in 1964 to attack poverty by relaxing collateral and credit requirements.
“Today, our main goal is to educate and inform small business owners about the resources that are available to them,” Morris said adding that the SBA started planning for this year’s National Small Business Week immediately after they wrapped up last year’s festivities.
“All of our 68 district offices will be doing an event this year with many doing multiple events during the week for the small business community they represent.”
Some of the events planed for this year will cut a wide swath since they will be available online through the SBA website. Morris says this year’s event will start on Sunday and have a definite online flare.
“That Sunday at 4 p.m., we are going to broadcast a social media panel discussion that will deal with social media best practices for small business. That will be broadcast live from Washington D.C.”
One of the highlights will take place the following Monday when the SBA announces the National Small Business Person of the year winner. The schedule also includes comments from new SBA administrator Linda McMahon. She was the CEO at the World Wrestling Entertainment . McMahon and her husband ,Vince, built the empire that made her a billionaire. She was confirmed Feb 14th.
At the beginning of the week, McMahon will meet with and recognize national small business owners in Washington D.C. She will attend events in NYC and other locations before finishing off with an event in Fresno, California. The SBA has 10 Regions and 68 Districts which will hold other events during National Small Business Week.
There will also be a series of webinars throughout the week on a series of different topics to be announced shortly. These are an opportunity for small business owners all across America to gain new knowledge and engage with thought leaders. There will be a total of five of these events during the week.
The social media aspect to these events helps the SBA to get the word out to small business owners on a scale that’s only possible online. In fact, Morris says last year there were “hundreds of millions of impressions on social media,” with over 10,000 small business owners participating in the events carried out in cyberspace.
“It’s all become a really big online event which obviously wasn’t the case back in 1963, but the Internet has become a really big part of how to reach small business owners. Besides, that’s where small business does business these days so that’s where we go to reach them.”
Online Small Business
As his title suggests, Morris is no stranger to the online small business space since he handles all the social media for the SBA. He says the administration realized several years ago the importance of the trend towards an online presence.
Still, he says the SBA favors a multi-pronged approach.
“While we definitely regard social media as an important way to reach small business owners, it’s not the only thing that we do,” he says. “ We have a bottom-line mentality that should resonate with small business owners. We carefully calculated all the returns on investments and that dictates things like how often we post in which networks we use most often.”
He goes on to say that one of the advantages to the new digital media is the robust analytics that weren’t available back in the days of AM radios and bell bottom pants.
Regardless of the delivery method, the sentiment around National Small Business Week hasn’t changed. Today it might have a strong online presence, but the prevailing mission is still as black and white as an old television set in the desire to foster all aspects of small business.
“Every year we give an award for a business that has recovered from a disaster,” he says mentioning how a business that was damaged in Hurricane Sandy last year received help.
“We brought them to D.C . to recognize and celebrate how they got their business back up on their feet as well as the contributions they made to their community.”
Small Business Trends a supporting co-sponsor of National Small Business Week.