Top 10 Ways to Support Entrepreneurs & Small Businesses in Your Community

Small businesses in the United States generated 65% of net new jobs since 1995.  While important drivers of our economy, small businesses often lack access to the resources they need to bring their ideas to scale.  With the help of Accion’s Gina Harmon and Jim Corcoran from the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, we conducted an interactive discussion at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Annual Corporate Citizenship Conference on how corporate citizens, NGOs, and communities can support entrepreneurship culture, small business development, and social impact. This list sums up the Top 10 things from that conversation that your organization can do.

 

  1. Bring Clarity of Purpose. Entrepreneurs and small businesses achieve a lot with very little by focusing, focusing, focusing. They need partners that have that same clarity of purpose and share their goals and objectives. When you look to help make sure you understand the needs of the businesses and entrepreneurs in your communities and target your approaches to meet those needs.

 

  1. Stay True to Your Passion. Entrepreneurs and business owners have a passion and drive that lets them overcome a lot. Align your programs with your own personal and institutional passions – tap into the aspirations and best natures of your employees and executives to create programs that let them have a really big impact by becoming part of something larger than themselves.

 

  1. Work on Shared Values. The best of the programs we discussed – like those at the Boston Brewing Company – have a leadership culture that values the entrepreneurial spirit. Use these programs to rekindle or fan the flames of your own culture.

 

  1. Offer Spot Mentorship. Every successful entrepreneur owes their success to a string of mentors – but not all mentors have to form lifelong or even long-lasting relationships. Sometimes entrepreneurial proteges need a pep talk or some specialized advice like how to handle an accounting or HR issue. Open up yourself and your organization and bring the best of your own knowledge and skills.

 

  1. Provide Access to New Customers. All business is people. Growing businesses need to grow their networks and when you open up your network or find ways to help them grow their networks, you directly help them grow. By joining and actively participating in organizations like the Fairfax Chamber of commerce, you create a “network effect” adding your network to a network of networks – growing all networks exponentially.

 

  1. Use Technology to Lower Barriers. Technology can really level the playing field for small businesses, giving them access to capital, resources, and intelligence they would never have previously afforded. Organizations like Accion are helping to lower barriers to entry and your firm can do likewise.

 

  1. Enhance Access to Capital. Money makes the world go round and it gives small companies the fuel they need to take off. You can help them access new sources of capital, not just by giving them money or investing in their business, but by creating the conditions under which others will invest. Supporting the creation of an environment in which capital can flow to the places its needed and can be deployed to create value allows growing firms to survive and thrive.

 

  1. Measure ROI and Impact. Investments in small businesses can be measured both in financial as well as social terms. You can support entrepreneurs by a) helping them measure their ROI, b) helping them achieve their ROI, and c) working with them to craft goals that support achieving your organization’s mission and desired impact.

 

  1. Continuously Measure Over Time. What entrepreneurs need to pay attention to changes over the lifecycle of their business. So does the impact they will have on a given community as does the impact you and your organization can have on supporting the entrepreneurs and small businesses in your community. Hosting that conversation and keeping the focus on measuring impact over the long haul is a vital role in and of itself.

 

  1.  Help Them Design for Scale. Building a business is tiring. An entrepreneur or small business owner can lose focus and lose hope – getting lost in the weeds and failing to see the bigger picture or the bigger opportunities. Large organizations can help these leaders by working with them to envision long term success and by designing the processes, procedures, infrastructure, and systems that will get them there.

 

What do you think of our list? Something we missed? Something you’d add? Comment below. We want your feedback!

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