This op-ed originally published on LinkedIn May 21, 2015.

When I was growing up, my father owned a small business. And when I say small, I mean small: It was my father and an occasional day laborer. My mother, brothers, and I would help do the silkscreen printing on the drapery fabrics he sold. We were an all-hands-on-deck operation, guided by my father's belief that if you worked hard and did what you were supposed to do, opportunities would be there for you. 

Despite generations of progress on so many other fronts, it's still too hard to get a business started today. Hard work is no longer enough to guarantee opportunity. Credit is too tough to come by. Too many regulatory and licensing requirements are uneven and uncertain.

And yet, as I travel around the country, I hear signs of optimism. Just yesterday, I sat down with a group of small business owners at Bike Tech in Cedar Falls, Iowa. I met a young man named Brad Magg. He started his first catering business at 15 with a loan from a local bank--they were willing to take a chance on a very young entrepreneur after years of watching him sell baked goods while in elementary school. At 20, Brad decided he wanted to start a restaurant--just as the owner of the local ice cream shop, Goldie's, was getting ready to retire. He bought the business from Goldie herself (and liked the name so much he kept it). Like many business owners, Brad struggled to make ends meet during the Great Recession, so he sought help from a Small Business Administration program in his town. With support and sheer determination, he was able to save his business. Today Goldie's Ice Cream Shoppe has grown from one and a half employees to almost 30.

That's the spirit that got Americans through the Great Recession. And as we come back from the crisis, potential new business owners and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley to Des Moines to Brooklyn are ready to seize the moment. All they need are policies that help them get ahead instead of holding them back.

That's why I want to be a small business president. Throughout this campaign, I'll be proposing specific ways to help jump-start small business, including:

1. Cutting the red tape that holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs

It should not take longer to start a business in the U.S. than it does in Canada, Korea, or France. 

2. Expanding access to capital

Small business owners need access to financing and credit to build, grow, expand, and hire. Lending has recovered since the crisis, but it's still hard for new firms to get credit. A Federal Reserve Survey found that the current market is especially hard for the smallest firms and startups. And despite the fact that millions more women have opened businesses and become their own boss in recent years, they're still starting out with about half the financial capital as their male counterparts.

3. Providing tax relief and tax simplification for small business

The smallest businesses, with one to five employees, spend 150 hours and $1,100 per employee on federal tax compliance. That's more than 20 times higher than the average for far larger firms. We've got to fix that. 

4. Expanding access to new markets

Every American small business should be able to tap new markets--whether they are across their city, across their state, or around the world. Some American businesses are already doing this through new platforms, such as Etsy and eBay.

The early lessons I learned about hard work and entrepreneurship have stuck with me all my life--a sentence my father would be thrilled to read. In the weeks and months to come, I want to have more conversations with people on the frontlines--people like Brad in Iowa, who have seen firsthand what's working and what isn't. Then, we need to build their experiences into our policies--because small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and they have as much to teach us as ever.

 

Published on: May 21, 2015