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Small businesses need a big voice in Washington

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy and our local Fort Dodge economy. The past two years, however, have shown how small businesses must embody resiliency, innovation, and creative use of resources as we have navigated the pandemic, a worker shortage, supply chain challenges, inflation, and rising energy costs, among other issues.

All entrepreneurs are tested over the lifespan of their companies. But, the unfortunate reality is the existing gaps for women small business owners only widen when tough times arise. According to an earlier survey from Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices, 48 percent of female-owned small businesses noted they were struggling financially compared to just 39 percent of our male counterparts.

On top of ongoing gender disparities, current economic headwinds are making it harder for us to succeed. A new survey of graduates of Goldman Sachs’ business education program, 10,000 Small Businesses, recently found that 78 percent of small business owners say the economy has gotten worse in the past three months. It also found that 93 percent are worried about the U.S. economy experiencing a recession in the next 12 months.

But there is some good news. Sixty-five percent say they are optimistic about the financial trajectory of their business this year.

Although the future may be daunting, I know women entrepreneurs represent hope for the economy.

Nothing is more emblematic of the American Dream than starting a small business. It defines your financial future and make a lasting impact on your community. It is why millions of Americans try their hand at building their own enterprise, eager to turn their passion into a reality.

Even though entrepreneurs can creatively maneuver around economic headwinds, we need continued commitment from Congress to ensure federal programs help women-owned small businesses withstand future challenges.

Government initiatives like the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan were lifelines to many, including myself. For me, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses was my lifeline, making certain I knew how to navigate the complex application process and find resources to keep my business afloat in the depths of the pandemic.

While I was fortunate to overcome the dual challenges that small businesses and women face, there is still more work to do if we want to uplift other women. We must make our voices heard because our businesses are key to economic recovery locally and nationwide.

To reach that goal, the government and the private sector must come together to find a solution. That’s why I’m joining more than 2,500 entrepreneurs at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in Washington, D.C. Monday through Wednesday. The event will be the largest-ever gathering of small business owners, a community of which I am proud to be part.

Collectively, I know we small business owners will have a big voice while in Washington.

Top of mind for me is to ensure the federal government is living up to its promises of opening its federal contracts to more women- and minority-owned small businesses. The government also needs to enhance and bolster policies and programs designed to help small business employers and employees with the high cost of childcare. We also need to see a modernizing of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which has not been reauthorized since 2000.

Despite obstacles known and unknown, I am encouraged by my fellow female entrepreneurs who continue to press forward. As I travel to Washington to make my voice heard at the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Summit, I hope Fort Dodge residents will join me in asking our federal delegation to make policies to support small businesses a priority.

Cheryl O’Hern is the founder and CEO of Spin Markket + Digital, a digital marketing firm in Fort Dodge. Goldman Sachs 10KSB Iowa Graduation 2019


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