For those of us who follow the business world, recent times have proven jarring and disheartening. A multitude of huge companies have so assiduously pursued their short-term profits while excluding all other considerations that they have undermined the public trust. On Wall Street, institutions in command of unfathomable sums of money have devoted their intellectual bandwidth to designing casino-style bets in which they win and everyone else loses –- taxpayers, working people, retirees. In every industry, publicly traded giants have seen their share prices climb and executive pay soar while laying off American workers.
The casual reader of the business pages could be forgiven for getting the feeling that these giant players amount to American business writ large. Yet this is not so. Despite the outsized share of the headlines commanded by major companies, small business is where the action is. Smaller companies amount to the backbone of the American economy; the predominant source of jobs and innovative ideas; the place where the most vibrant form of entrepreneurialism resides. More than half of the nation’s private sector jobs are found at companies that employ fewer than 500 people, according to the Small Business Administration. If we are to finally get past the Great Recession and generate the millions of new jobs required to put Americans back to work, small business needs to lead the way.
This spirit infuses our mission here at the Huffington Post Media Group as we launch a new section, HuffPost Small Business, which officially debuts today. We aim to put the spotlight on the entrepreneurs at the center of the small-business world, while exploring what is working, who is generating the best ideas and who is following through with the most effective execution. We will examine what must yet be done –- what policies could help stimulate healthy growth; which are impediments to expanded commerce and fresh paychecks.
We want to crystallize a dialogue about the best practices at play, and connect would be-startups with useful counsel and intelligence. Our editor, Rod Kurtz, is ideally positioned to advance this conversation by tapping his Board of Directors –- an impressive roster of business leaders and members of the entrepreneurial community including Virgin founder Richard Branson, MTV star and serial entrepreneur Rob Dyrdek and Brooklyn Industries founder Lexy Funk, among others. Rod will regularly tap the Board for advice and insight, encouraging members to draw on their own experiences to help bring the next crop of startups to the fore.
In one regular feature, Entrepreneur Spotlight, we will profile successes, such as Chris Pfaff, who leveraged a connection to the MTV reality show world to launch a popular line of urban apparel -- a story we feature today. We will offer up tales from the small business world, such as today's feature on Loyal Pennings, who runs a bustling Hollywood nightclub. And we will examine how and why many small businesses are struggling, and what might be done to turn this around, such as today's engaging feature from senior writer Janean Chun, who surveys New York City to ask a disturbing question that surely resonates in any community: Can local companies survive in the face of growing competition from national chains?
HuffPost Small Business will also feature an ever-changing array of bloggers offering up a provocative assortment of viewpoints, ideas, grievances, complaints and suggestions, all in the spirit of tapping the considerable entrepreneurial acumen of the largest economy on earth to reinvigorate business, overseen by Nate Hindman.
We invite and welcome your engagement. We want HuffPost Small Business to function as a community, one open to all comers, a place to swap ideas, get inspired, learn about the pitfalls of launching an operating a business, solve problems, and ultimately help forge an economy in which business is again generating paychecks that allow increasing numbers of Americans to move past the wrenching downturn and into a time of growing fortunes.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the financial crisis of 2008 and the terrible recession it amplified have posed a fundamental test of the economic system known as free market capitalism. Growing numbers of people have come to see business as malevolent, losing faith in the principles supposedly at work in American commerce. Taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street banks made it seem as if the system was defined by crony capitalism. Mass layoffs implemented just as corporate executives were helping themselves to seven-figure bonuses reinforced the impression that profits came at the direct expense of worker interests.
Stories of small businesses -- the people managing payroll, attending to real-life personnel issues, putting their own savings on the line to pursue an idea in which they believe -- are testament to the endurance of the bedrock of American style capitalism, and the creative strengths that must ultimately be harnessed in building a more fruitful economy.
Despite the trauma of recent years, the United States remains home to brilliant minds and hard-working people eager to contribute their labor. We retain a deep-seated urge for progress. It is not a historical accident that this is the country that produced Google and Apple, two companies that started small and have grown into behemoths on the strength of their exceptional ideas -- ideas that have fixed problems, made life more interesting, and in turn spawned no end of new businesses.
HuffPost Small Business is all about celebrating these virtues and helping to properly exploit them in the service of greater economic good, getting people back to work by getting back to business -- the real business of producing goods and services of enduring value.
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