The Credit Junction interviewed Karen Kerrigan, the President and CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. The group's chief advocate, Karen has helped foster U.S. entrepreneurship and global small business growth.
1. What does a typical day look like for you?
Just like any small business owner or entrepreneur growing a business, there is no typical day because things “pop” on an hourly and daily basis. But in general, each and every day I am engaging, advocating, planning and executing. We have an organization that represents more than 100,000 small business owners, therefore I am talking with our members and supporters on a daily basis and getting their input, ideas and feedback. When Congress is in session, I may be up on Capitol Hill participating in panels, briefing members or their staff, or testifying before a congressional committee. I often meet with the regulatory agencies, the president’s advisors and our coalition allies in Washington. I spend a good amount of time talking to the media to respond to breaking events that may impact small businesses, or educating them on key issues, where I explain the nuances of various legislative proposals that we are supporting or opposing. Everything I do is focused on supporting our members here in the US and entrepreneurship across the globe.
2. Having worked on small business and entrepreneurial growth for more than 20 years, what changes have you seen in the sector?
There have been many, many changes! Still, the issues of concern for entrepreneurs have generally stayed the same. Navigating a changing economic and policy climate, access to capital and reaching scale are all still big challenges. What has changed dramatically is the growth of entrepreneurship globally, which has been terrific! In the US, we have an entrepreneurial culture, but other countries are now starting to adopt and pursue an entrepreneurial path. These countries are seeing business startup and entrepreneurship as a path to prosperity, growth, and job creation. And they are right.
Another big change is technology. It has been a game changer and an equalizer. Women entrepreneurs, minority entrepreneurs, and others who don’t often have the resources or deep networks as more seasoned and connect entrepreneurs can now use technology to access information, capital, training and consumers. All of this is now possible because of technological innovation.
3. What are some of the biggest problems that these small business owners face?
At the moment, the challenging economic climate is hard for many business owners and entrepreneurs to navigate. The uncertainty around the future of the economy makes it difficult to plan and make important decisions about their businesses.
The policy climate is also problematic. We need a new tax system that is simple and more globally competitive. There are a lot of new regulations coming out of Washington that impact the workplace, the cost of healthcare and the cost of capital. These all have a direct bearing on small business operations. That is why SBE Council recently launched Rethink Red Tape with several business organizations. We need to reform our regulatory system, Washington must rethink how it develops regulations because they are having a disproportionate impact on small businesses and new business creation.
Finding quality workers, or those whose skill sets match what business owners need is also a big issue. Our educational system is not producing workers with the type of skills, experience and knowledge needed to excel in today’s workplace and world. Many of our members say this as a key barrier to growing their businesses.
And last, but not least, is capital. Access to capital to start and grow a business has been an enduring challenge for many of our members, particularly for growth-oriented firms. The good news is that the emergence of equity and debt based crowd funding, online platforms and services like The Credit Junction are giving entrepreneurs much needed options to access financing.
4. Much has been said about women and minorities displaying particular trouble with access to capital. What can be done to remedy this issue?
There are many things that can be done. On the regulatory and policy side, government officials, especially at the federal level, need to look at the consequences of Dodd Frank and new rulemakings that are exacerbating the problem. In addition, the SEC needs to better understand the impact of their rulemakings on capital formation. I believe that taking a fresh look at regulations currently on the books is critical as outdated rules are particularly costly for underserved areas.
But there is good news to share as well. Title 3 crowdfunding, which allows any person to invest in a start up or business that they believe in, opens up an entire pool of potential investors for all kinds of entrepreneurs and small businesses, including women and minorities. The early indications we are seeing from Title 3 crowdfunding show that women and minority businesses are engaged in seeking this type of funding, and are successful in their raises. So, this “democratization of capital” is working, and we are moving in the right direction.
5. What role does the SBE Council play in supporting entrepreneurship and the growth of small business?
We work to improve and strengthen the ecosystem that supports and encourages entrepreneurship and successful small business growth. A lot of our work focuses on policy reforms and changes that will create the environment needed to encourage more people to pursue the dream of starting a businesses, and then successfully growing it. That’s a pretty big job, but we are very focused and have many of our members helping us. We also provide educational content and training. SBE Council is fortunate to have a great advisory council who are all passionate about entrepreneurship and small business. These experts provide our members with the content and cutting-edge information they need to compete in today’s global economy.
6. Do you have any words of encouragement or advice for an aspiring entrepreneur?
There may be people who try to talk you out of business ownership, or throw roadblocks in your way, but if entrepreneurship is something that you are passionate about, go for it and pursue it. America needs more entrepreneurs.
Surround yourself with mentors and people that will help you navigate some of the more difficult challenges of business ownership. And don’t forget- always be ready to learn and have an open mind. The world is constantly changing, so always be ready for it and embrace that change.