Image includes image of political donkey and elephant combined into one animal with the text "small businesses - the backbone of America"

Collaboration Is No Joking Matter

With more than 50 million Americans out of work, something needs to be done. The other day I was watching a segment on MSNBC where Senators Michael Bennet (CO-D) and Todd Young (IN-R) shared their plan, the “Restart Act,” to help small business owners like myself. During difficult times like these, collaboration is a driving force that can bring about change.

Here’s how I think collaboration can help:

Politicians from both sides of the aisle

A Democrat and a Republican met in the Senate and forgot that they were from different political parties. They realized that the American people were struggling, and they also realized that those same Americans operate small businesses. While the first bipartisan PPP bill was passed quickly, unfortunately, there wasn’t enough oversight (see Trump refusing oversight of funds disclosure). Working together when opposing political ideologies are at play can be tough. Senators Bennet and Young are prime examples of how our politicians can work together to help small businesses.

Consumers and small business

Consumers are becoming more aware that they can select where they spend their money, and they are choosing minority-owned small businesses. Specifically, there has been a collective effort to support Black-owned businesses with campaigns like Blackout Day and websites like My Black Receipt. By supporting diverse businesses, we are building more diverse, healthy communities.  Each of us has a choice on where we do business and how we spend money.  Have you supported a local business? If so, which one(s)?

Small business and big business

I think of businesses as part of an ecosystem. Just like the Democrats and Republicans make up our political ecosystem that can be healthy or unhealthy. Presently, our country is dysfunctional, and until the two parties can collaborate it will continue this way. When a large business anchors a community or attracts more commerce, there is actually room for the small businesses around them to flourish.  Large businesses and small businesses are necessary parts of a healthy ecosystem. This is how communities become stronger. Young and Bennet know that we need to turn the tide and we can only do this by having the two political parties work together. Small and large businesses, women, Black, and Latino-owned small businesses, all of the businesses are important, you know like Lion King, the Circle of Life.  

For example, the courageous women I worked with at Empowered Women International were focused on launching micro-businesses. The entrepreneurial training we shared was aimed at giving each woman economic stability, growing self-confidence, and building strong communities for them and their families. Many of these women came from other countries or under-resourced communities and wanted something more for their families. If they gain economic strength, they become strong consumers and are all part of a healthier ecosystem we call home. If we don’t support the “Restart Act” or something similar all of these mom and pop shops will disappear…

Large businesses and social responsibility (CSR)

I listened to the two senators talk about their bill and what they had learned from other stimulus packages. I’ve also read about the ripple effect of giving stimulus to a small business that pays their people to come back to work (off unemployment), can pay their rent and vendors, thus putting the money right back into the economy. We need large businesses to think about the greater good, not just their shareholders.

ShakeShack announced they were returning the money they got from PPP, and then other socially responsible big businesses followed suit. This was another moment like senators Bennet and Young collaborating across the aisle. There are socially responsible businesses that realize that large businesses with reserves can weather this storm and the importance of supporting the small businesses (the intended program recipients) that desperately need the funds to survive. Again, it’s an ecosystem and we know that if the chain is broken all of us will suffer.

There was a point when business continued to be slow that I thought about applying for the small business relief programs, but they were no longer taking applications because the money was all gone. In a way it allowed me to retain my integrity and not take funds from another small business that was truly in need.

By putting new rules/regs in place, there’s a greater chance the money will actually get to the people who need it. If we want Americans to have a place to go back to work, we need those who have enough to share the pie.  Don’t apply for the loans/grants if you have a reserve of cashDon’t take the money from someone who needs it. There’s enough to go around if you act with compassion and respect your community.  Do the right thing, and reach across the aisle or the driveway to communicate with your neighbors even if they have different opinions or a different political party than you. And let’s all stop acting from a point of scarcity!

Have you seen any other examples of collaboration during a pandemic? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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