Small Business Revolution Documentary | The Entrepreneurial Spirit of AmericaOn October 10, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
(Herjavec) One of my favorite sayings is that the business of America is business. It is still the greatest country in the world to come to these shores and start a small business. There’s a very unique culture that we have in terms of taking risks. We encourage entrepreneurship more than any other country in the world. When you drive through the small towns or the big towns, you see thousands of little businesses. That is the lifeblood of this country. (McCarthy) The first businesses in the United States were farms, were small shops, and so small businesses are as old as the republic itself. I think that the small business itself is a representation that someone can make it in America, can own something, can be economically independent, can make some money, et cetera, and that’s all part of the DNA of the country. (Emerson) I do not think that people really understand how big of an impact small businesses make on our nation’s economy. (Ned) They have always been, throughout our nation’s history the primary source of job creation in this country. (Contreras-Sweet) Small businesses spawn a strong middle class and so I think that entrepreneurship is fundamental to a democratic society. (Bobbitt) Not only do they employ the folks in our community the other thing we know about small business owners and entrepreneurs is that they give back disproportionately. Small business is integral to the success, health, and well-being of every community in America. (McCarthy) The 19th century saw a huge transformation in the economy. The rise of industrial capitalism that emerged around railroads and oil and so forth had a huge impact, which is a story of a nation of independent producers becoming a nation of modern corporations. The economy moved out of the home and off of the farm into the city, into the shops, and into the marketplace which then becomes, ultimately, the factories of the late 19th century and early 20th century. Corresponding to that was a whole legal shift where the corporation literally becomes a person, legally a person. So they’re seeking legal recognition to make more economic profit in an increasingly national marketplace Profits were exploding really for the first time in American history and that legal shift, that is the partnership between big business and government, resulted in corporations benefitting from a disproportionate share of the profits and wealth that are generated from the economy. So you see playing out in the 20th century and now in the 21st century, this conflict between an older model of small business ownership and a more modern model of industrial corporations. And over time there are fewer and fewer companies that are coming to dominate more and more of the economy. (Herjavec) I don’t think people realize how bad 2008 was. We had one foot over the edge, looking into the abyss. It was bad for big business, it was bad for little business, it was just bad overall. (McCarthy) But if we know one thing from the economic meltdown small businesses did not screw the global economy, corporations did and the people who insisted on the deregulation, the partnership between business and government, that’s what caused the global economic meltdown. (Herjavec) In 2008, most large companies cut 5,000 employees, 20,000 employees, 30,000 employees. Where did all those people go? Hi, it’s Kim calling. (Caller) Hi Kim! (Kim) Hi (Caller) Your mom just showed up (Kim) Uh oh, Pat’s in the house, look out Don’t give her any free stuff. I am supposed to be meeting a gentleman named Tunde so if he asks for me, can you tell him I’m gonna be a little late because traffic is pretty bad? (Caller) For sure (Kim) Thank you Bye (Kim VO) I own and operate eight restaurants and I’ve worked in south Minneapolis now since I moved here in 1983, I’m embarrassed to say. In my college years I supported myself as a cook in kitchens and people don’t get treated very well in restaurants. The pay isn’t very good, you don’t have health insurance, the hours are long, there’s not a lot of flexibility. At one point I lost my job because I had to go to the funeral of a very close friend that I played rugby with. That is like the lowest of the low sort of thing. I was about as anti-authoritarian as a person could get so when I opened my restaurant I was suddenly confronted with having to be the boss and having vowed I would never work in restaurants again because of the way people were treated. (Herjavec) You can never take the founder out of the DNA of a small business. You walk into a company that has great customer service, and you meet the owner, and it’s somebody who cares. You walk into a business that has horrible customer service, you meet the owner you know why. (Kim VO) I decided to create a culture where employees were treated well. We pay health insurance, servers in my restaurants make a living wage People are allowed to have flexible schedules and lives. And the people who work in the kitchens are allowed to eat free meals because I knew they were gonna do that anyway. (Contreras-Sweet) As small businesses, if you’re not a good joiner then you can be a starter. And that’s the power of entrepreneurship. Whether you’re a woman, or an immigrant, you can say “You know what? If I’m not accepted, I’ll start my own business” and they do. (McCarthy) I think it’s interesting that nearly one third of small businesses in the United States are owned by women. Corporate CEOs is much smaller percent. It might 15 percent, not even. (Kim) Because of the culture, I don’t have a high turnover in my restaurants. People work together for a long time and that is a community unto itself. (Customer 1) One of my neighbors works here and it seems like it’s a good personal environment. I think building an economy that’s based on our values is important. (Customer 2) I grew up in this neighborhood, I’m not about supporting big chain places so places like this, I love. And I love the garden outside too, I think that’s awesome. (Brinkman) People came out of the recession very conscious of where they’re at financially, but then I think that actually helped people and consumers become more conscientious about where they were spending their dollars. I think they realize that when you shop at a small business you’re supporting your neighbors, their kids might go to school with your kids. People care about that and they care about supporting people rather big brands or big businesses. (Kim) We want to continue to explore ways that we engage in this business for the future. We focus on zero waste, sustainable agriculture. Essentially the triple bottom line; we’re very people, planet, profit driven. I’d add ‘place’ to that of course. (McCarthy) There is, at its best I think, in a small business model a kind of reciprocity. We will employ people from the community to work here we will do the work that is necessary to produce goods and services that ultimately benefit the community, the community, because they’re loyal and because they need those goods and services, will give us the money that will allow us to sustain ourselves, to thrive, for me to be able to pay my workers well, to provide benefits for them to give them a Christmas bonus, and in turn we’re going to be able to support one another. (Bobbitt) I think if you look around the community you live in and you talk about the things you really like about that community I bet small businesses are a big part of that. Maybe it’s the place where you go get coffee, maybe it’s the place you and your spouse had your first date, the restaurant you went to. I think those kinds of memories, those kinds of interpersonal connections that make a community, always include small businesses. (Lynne) We just had these upholstered in orange, what do you think about the color of the fabric? (Customer) I like them a lot. Goes with the logo. (Lynne) Yeah, dig it (Lynne VO) I grew up in Chicago This neighborhood has always been thought of as very negative. Ooh don’t go past West of Western. It used to be not so many businesses and at one point there was a lot of gangs and drugs. But I never thought it was seedy, I thought it was just colorful. My husband and I have a vintage furniture business. We opened here 11/11/11 (Ty) Lynne is a very outgoing person She immediately connects to people. (Lynne) My customers, they become my friends. And it’s so nice when somebody walks by and just waves and I’m waving and I’m talking. You know the psychological impact of someone walking by and waving? Not having to say anything, just “Hey, good morning!” (Herjavec) There’s a personal nature of a small business and there’s a certainty to it. I like my little coffee shop, I like seeing the same person there, I like knowing that it’s the owner, and I think that’s what people are attracted to. In this age of impersonal, people like to know who they’re dealing with. (Customer) I’ve become friends with them and I’ve recommended people here. You need to build a relationship with the people that you’re doing business with, I really believe that. (Contreras-Sweet) Surveys prove that out. Two out of every three consumers polled have more confidence in small businesses than they do in the large corporations. (Lynne) I think small businesses help their community grow. So we decided to turn West of Western into a positive West of Western stands for WOW! Kinda noticed that this neighborhood had a good lot of stores and was hustling and bustling but there was really no connection. I’m like, we need to be together and we need to talk about what’s going on in our business lives. Because we need things over here in WOW. We need banners, we need benches, we need more police protection because we want to keep our community safe and we feel more people will come over and shop if we have just a few of these things in place. So I started introducing everybody. Hi! How are you? You look so pretty today! (Bobbitt) In our society we get told a lot “Fix yourself.” “Here are the seven habits of successful people.” But it turns out entrepreneurs are great at partnering, great at finding somebody else who complements their areas of weakness. And by working together, they’ll build something even better. (Business owner) Six thirty? I’ll be there with bells on (Lynne) Bring your fresh ideas. (Customer) It’s business owners like these who change people’s minds because I’ll go out and tell 5 or 6 people about this, they’ll come in here, they’ll go across the street and get a cup of coffee, and all of a sudden it’s a neighborhood. You know, voila! (Lynne) We wanna make sure everybody over here has a good, strong, tight lease with lease options to renew. Because this community is changing. If the big box come in and they take over and the rents go up, everybody gets forced or pushed back, so we wanna be dug in. I’m very proud of us all getting together and working against the negative odds. If we stick together, we’re all gonna go to the top together This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done before in my life. (Emerson) I believe that the United States is becoming an entrepreneurial community. You look at the success of all the entrepreneur TV shows, entrepreneurship is hot, it is in this season, everybody has an A hustle and a B hustle and what they really want to do is turn them into enough profit so that they can actually leave their full time job and pursue this real passion project over here that’s making them some money. (Bobbitt) I think the small business sector is the most important sector. Particularly as we see a process where very large corporations are likely to merge and become multinational corporations It tends to create corporations that don’t even seem to have an allegiance to one country They’re located all over the globe. Small businesses are nothing like that. Small businesses serve the community they’re located in. Even when the internet allows small businesses to serve all over the country or all over the world they still carry some of those same values about solving problems, creativity, connecting with the community and giving back. (Mitch) My great grandfather bought this land in 1914 but we grew up in town, we didn’t grow up farming We moved up here to get out of the city. Our family was growing at that time, and it just kinda felt like a good move to raise the kids in the country. This is what we love doing but it’s really, really hard Just tracking everything as far as the cost because we’re not fully integrated like a corporate farm. We’re not able to grow our feed for the chickens or our feed for the hogs We buy that, we don’t own our processor, so that just adds up We’re struggling to make it work To stay small and natural and still generate enough income even though prices are typically higher than what you’ll find at a regular grocery store. Over the last forty years, people left the farms. There’s not any small farms. There’s literally just a handful of us. You would think, rural state, they’d abound but there’s just no life in these communities. There’s big corporate farms and that’s it. (Herjavec) When the economy is really bad customers are under a lot of pressure to save money. And people misunderstand that concept, they think saving money is always getting the lowest price Saving money is oftentimes about getting more value for the same amount of money. Or even paying a little more in order to get more value. (Gwen) I think the way that people our age look at food is closer to how our grandparents saw it than how our parents did. This matters. You eat crap, you feel like crap. My husband and I have a food truck. I source 75% locally. If I can’t get what I need locally, I don’t get it. (Mitch) Gwen is a great customer and a great friend She’s not only trying to build her customer base, she’s quick to let her customers know where the food comes from too. (Gwen) I work with small farmers a lot when it comes to sourcing We have a meeting once a month and we talk about what they’re gonna have growing, what they like to have, what do I need them to have, that’s how I build my menu. It’s a way for us to support and coexist and help each other. (Bobbitt) Entrepreneurs find slack resources Entrepreneurs don’t go out and say “I need a million dollars, I’m gonna build this.” Entrepreneurs look at what they have on hand and they say “What can I build out of this?” (Mitch) The demand is out there, it’s huge as far as people wanting to know where their food comes from. We’ve kinda watched it evolved as our business has grown and as the farm has grown so has the people showing up at the farmer’s markets and in the food scene in Little Rock in particular it’s just blossomed over the last 4 or 5 years You gotta lean on other farmers, I mean, everything from sharing feed loads to buying baby chicks together there is a coming together, a bonding. A lot of that is “Hey, we’re all in it together and if we don’t help each other we’re probably not gonna make it.” (Gwen) Small businesses are more connected to their community because we depend on our community a lot more. I depend on my farmers, I depend on my customers it matters to them that I know their name. (Mitch) Y’know, we’re not looking to get rich We just wanna stay here and be secure and raise our family and we wanna stay here and farm. (Bobbitt) When I look at the way our society emphasizes personal wealth it gives me a lot of pause. The big challenge in higher education is that the smart kids are pulled out to go work in finance. Go work in a hedge fund young man, go be an investment banker. I think that’s a terrible trend for our society. I think those are not industries that actually create the kinds of jobs and the kinds of life and society that I want to live in. (Contreras-Sweet) When you see that you have a diminishing middle class and you have a few haves and many many have-nots you see despotism, you see social upheaval. I think that we all have to challenge ourselves at this state and at the federal level to make sure that the laws are level. There are often times where we put economic advantages on the large C corps and we don’t think about the sole proprietor. And so I think our government has to continue to think about the tax structure and to finance innovation at a much more aggressive way because it’s our legacy to spawn innovation in an unburdensome way. (Ned) I was born in Detroit I grew up here, went to Detroit public schools. When I was ten years old, I remember saying “Someday, I’m gonna go away, and then I’m gonna come back here and save Detroit.” I would never use that kind of language now but how messed-up does your situation have to be that when you’re ten years old, and you’re in the only environment in which you’ve ever known, you know it needs fixing. We were incredibly concentrated in one industry, that through globalization has largely reduced its impact on employment and on the economy. (Herjavec) When the economy is really bad, public companies are usually forced to make short term decisions. And there’s only two ways to increase profit: increase sales or lower costs. Most large corporations have to cut jobs. (Ned) Historically our revitalization efforts have been sorta surrounded by big events. There were big urban renewal projects in the 50s and the 60s There was the building of the Renaissance Center, that was gonna save Detroit. The building of the People Mover that was gonna save Detroit. And the reality is, that’s not how it works. You need a groundswell of lots and lots of little things happening and that’s why for the first time in my 40 plus years in the city I’m really optimistic that this time is different. Tech Town is a non-profit incubator created to help grow businesses and jobs here in the city of Detroit. In the last five or six years we’ve helped more than 1,000 companies to create more than 1,200 jobs. And it’s in every kind of field. Commercializing technology out of the university, we’re working on two projects like that right now, or diners and wine stores out in the community. We help them with everything, from getting financing to negotiating your license or learning about how you manage inventory all the nuts and bolts. We want to be a hub and a convener, there are a lot of other organizations in the building, and we want to be a place where the ecosystem can come together. There’s nothing better than seeing someone who has worked on their dream for a long time, and at one point probably thought that dream wasn’t going to happen, There’s nothing better than watching them get the coaching they need get the resources they need and bring that dream to fruition. (Entrepreneur 1) We build an app that delivers a live feed of opportunities like workshops, jobs, internships directly to high schoolers. (Entrepreneur 2) We have a social goal of increasing the representation of women and minorities in different fields. We’re trying to equalize access to information. (Correras-Sweet) Young people today say “I’ve seen my parents, and they worked for a corporation for 30 years and at the end they ended up with a pretty nice retirement but I want to be able to have a social impact and so they’re coming up with ideas that really do benefit society. (Entrepreneur 3) In Detroit, it’s not so much making an app about how fast can I order my pizza we’re thinking about how can we advance manufacturing to a point where it’s more readily available to the rest of the world. We’re trying to make a more efficient and better place to live. (Correras-Sweet) In the last 20 years, what are the most iconic brands that represent the United States? People think Google, people think Facebook, Fedex, Apple These were companies that were started in garages. That have now changed the way we communicate It’s the small that is changing the world (Ned) We often talk, throughout history, have people known that they were living in a really momentous time. Cause that’s the feeling we all have here, we all know this is a really momentous time for Detroit. The revitalization of the American city is the big challenge of our age. (Brinkman) Small businesses are starting to help bring cities back to life If you look at St. Louis, you look at New Orleans, you look at Detroit they’re helping bring people back into the city. Small businesses are the ones creating this new infrastructure for these cities to be successful again. (Ned) There’s so many people, so many projects, so many developments that are happening dozens of places like this, arts incubators, creative folks hundreds of little companies springing up around the city. This time there is no one big thing. The next big thing is a thousand little things. (Herjavec) Every time you see a successful business or any business someone made a courageous decision. The average time that an SMP 500 company has been on the SMP 500 is now 12 years. Used to be 25 years. 40 years ago, it was probably 50 years. Meaning the entire list changes every 12 years. It’s very scary for big companies but it’s a chance for employees. The idea like my dad getting a job in a factory working there for 25 years doesn’t exist anymore. So we are forced to find a way. (Bobbitt) The Great Recession is probably the worst economic event that you or I have ever lived through. The net creator of jobs in our society since the Great Recession has been the small business sector (Correras-Sweet) This new creative class is convening in coffee shops, and in garages, and in these incubators across the country. Entrepreneurship has become a movement. (Lynne) It’s a revolution. Small business is a revolution. But we have to be in each other’s lives in order to make this thing work. That’s why it’s so important for the community to support small businesses. (McCarthy) There’s always been a relationship between the politics of our consumption. Consumerism is seen as an act of citizenship. (Correras-Sweet) When we can expand the middle class and make sure that people are providing for their families they’re able to go to school, they’re able to build innovative products for the future then you have a strong democracy. (Emerson) Being in business has become a great equalizer If you build a better mouse trap, the world will be a path in your door no matter who you are. If you’re a woman, if you’re a minority If you deliver great service at a fair price people will do business with you. (McCarthy) You’re thinking about a story of the rise of multinational corporations It is a story of the rise of economic inequality and of wealth consolidation. Maybe small businesses have a role to play not just in fostering and foraging communities but in the closing of the gap between the rich and poor. (Correras-Sweet) This is not just about some kid coming up with a lemonade stand. It’s about the world order and assuring that America’s world standing prevails so that we can make sure that we’re setting standards for women for people of diverse backgrounds for our seniors. Livable wages that we can all respect and abide by. (Bobbitt) Doesn’t solve every problem, I’m not pretending that but I’m a fan of small business because I think small business makes better people and better society. Small business is not small. It’s huge.