A small business owner’s wish list for the new president
Pamela Redmond Satran is a developer of baby-naming site nameberry.com, based on the name guides she coauthored with Linda Rosenkrantz. The opinions expressed are her own.
Dear President-Elect Obama,
In the final days leading up to your election, we heard a lot about what you were going to do to help small-business owners. Now it’s time to pony up. Not sure where to start? As someone with the audaciously bad timing to launch my website, nameberry.com, on October 14, I have some ideas:
Start a web-based work initiative
Taking a cue from FDR’s bold work initiatives in his first 100 days, you might train people to work on small web businesses like mine. Instead of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), call it the WWW Camp, where laid-off mortgage brokers and moms craving flexible hours can learn software coding and database management and website design. The result: More jobs in northern Vermont and southern Virginia; more accessible and affordable help for the new generation of small web-based business owners like me.
And while you’re at it, improve the Internet infrastructure
You’re planning to spend billions on highway improvements, but what about the Internet infrastructure? Spending money on roads promotes more driving, which uses fuel and increases our carbon footprint, while investing in the next generation of technology encourages people to stay home and spend more time on the web. That’s good for me and all the other web startups.
Bring the Small Business Association into the 21st century
I’d love it if the SBA was dealing with 2009 businesses like mine along with coffee shops and dry cleaning stores. The kinds of issues I faced starting my business – finding a talented and affordable designer, figuring out search engine optimization, driving traffic to my site – aren’t even addressed at sba.gov.
Help the midcareer worker retool
My degree in journalism helped me launch a career as a magazine editor and writer and book author, but I wasn’t sure where to turn for my new educational needs in this economy. Who was going to teach me how to embed video on my blog – and then how to get out there and promote the thing? Where was someone accustomed to working alone going to learn how to motivate and manage a team – especially without money in the picture? I figured it out myself, but education and training efforts aimed at the midcareer worker looking to launch or renovate a small business, or stay vital in a larger corporation, would be wonderful.
At the risk of angering the Great God Google, I think you should look into wresting back control of the Internet and putting the public interest above secret algorithms or pay-for-play. There are thousands of newly-unemployed journalists ready and able to make editorial judgments on the value of websites based on quality and not on the number of times they can cram certain keywords into their copy. Bring back real intelligence and expertise to everyday research.
Champion more entrepreneurs
You got a lot of political mileage out of Joe the Plumber, and made him famous in the process. But how many sinks can one plumber plunge? Referring to me as “Pam the Baby Namer” would drive millions of parents in search of excellent names for their babies – Barack, anyone? – to my small business.
Make government relevant to small business owners again
I’m not worried about my taxes; I’m worried that my business won’t make any money at all and, even with minimal expenses, we’ll have to close shop. I’m worried that, even if we can afford to pay a salary, the cost and trouble of paying social security and medical insurance will mean we can’t hire someone. I’m worried that, without affordable sources of money – including my diminishing home equity and my own IRA – my business will stay small forever.