May is National Small Business Appreciation Month, and that struck a chord with us. Our chocolate making company is a small business, and we actively search out and support other small businesses in our community. But, I’m not sure we’ve ever explained why the concept of small business is so important to us.
First, let’s understand what a small business is. The US Small Business Association defines a small business as an independent business that has less than 500 employees. While that may seem like a lot, the average small business size is 22.2 employees per firm. According to the SBA’s 2020 survey there are 31,720,139 total businesses in the United States. Of that total, 31.7M are small businesses and 20,139 are large businesses, which means that 99.9% of all businesses in the US are small businesses.
So, what impact do small businesses have on our US economy? In the private sector, 47.1% of US employees work for small businesses and they earn 40.3% of the US private sector payroll. When talking about what we do and make in the US, small businesses accounted for 43.5% of GDP in 2014. When measuring job growth, in 2019-2020 small businesses accounted for 65% of net new jobs- that’s a lot of new jobs.
This data shows that small businesses are integral to the health of our US economy. But, why should someone want to own, work for or support small businesses?
Business Agility, Efficiency & Effectiveness
In small businesses owners often work alongside employees, and communication channels between management and execution are shorter and sometimes nonexistent. Management has direct insight into day-to-day operations and consumer feedback, which is truly valuable and allows for immediate decision making. Cutting out bureaucracy, saves time and money and gives an edge in responsiveness to trends and adaptation.
At Goodnow Farms, Tom and I avoided disaster early on with open feedback channels and fast action. Originally, we had planned on crafting chocolate bars that were much larger and thicker, because that’s what we thought people wanted. But, after mixed feedback with test bars, we realized we had to refine our approach; the too-thick test bars were difficult to chew and the large amount of chocolate in the bar made the price point too high. We pivoted and decreased the thickness and size of our bars, which allowed for a more enjoyable tasting experience as well as a lower price point. This encouraged more people to try and enjoy our unique approach to single origin chocolate. And, by acting fast we avoided costly retooling, packaging and branding mistakes that could have dearly cost our fledgling business.
Team Culture, Community & Positive Change
When you have a small business you depend on local talent to build your team that will help you realize your goals. For us it is most important to work with people that have similar values, including high-quality work ethic, good communication skills, teamwork mentality, positive attitude and social responsibility. Instead of having the mindset of being a cog in a wheel, we encourage giving input and using creativity to effect positive change. People are social creatures that enjoy being helpful and contributing to something greater than themselves- we want people to feel valued and know that they are adding value.
The culture that we practice in our workplace transcends our team and is reinforced throughout our community of Goodnow chocolate lovers. Through regular interactions the mindset also slowly spreads throughout the local community and then beyond. People take pride in knowing that they are connected to a high-quality chocolate and the values it promotes, and the message spreads further. Eventually, as more and more people and small businesses promote values like high-quality products, value-based pay and environmental responsibility larger companies and industries take notice and bigger change start to happen.
Opportunity, Long-Term Vision & Fine Flavor Chocolate
There is room for self expression in our small business, and our company is a reflection of our personal values and goals and the vehicle for realization. As a woman and prior to founding our company, climbing the corporate ladders of larger, established businesses was not easy. What I learned early on was that I constantly had to improve upon my myself and enhance my pedigree to be taken seriously. And, even when I had done all of the right things including getting my MBA, I was still denied equal pay to that of my male counterparts and systems were unwilling to change.
At Goodnow Farms, Tom and I own and operate our company 50-50. Without having investors to appease in the short-term or to worry about contracts expiring and year-over-year growth bonuses, we are able to look long-term and guide our company in the best manner that we see fit for the wellness and overall viability of the business and our community. We pair our social goals with our business goals. Even though it isn’t a chocolate industry standard to pay cacao farmers higher prices for better quality and fine flavor cacao, we feel this added value should be recognized and that generally accepted practices and standards should change.
And if you think about it, the small-holder farmers that we buy cacao from have their own small businesses that are interwoven in the fabrics of their communities thousands of miles away. Our entire fine chocolate value chain and ability to make unique, single origin chocolate is built upon small businesses, without which, fine flavor chocolate as we know it would not exist.
Thankfully because of small businesses, I can reach for my bar of fine flavor chocolate sitting at the corner of my desk and escape to a place of delicious bliss. These are just some of the reasons I am grateful for the 99.9% of businesses in the US that are small businesses.
Join us and other small businesses from the Fine Chocolate Industry Association on May 27th for the first, inaugural CHOCOLATE BREAK on InstagramLive! Go to Instagram and follow @MakeMineFine to see participation details for the May giveaway of delicious chocolate from us, Moka & Dick Taylor Chocolate!
All above referenced data can be found in the SBA’s October 2020 Report.