Dear Fellow Marylanders,
One of my favorite parts of serving the great state of Maryland is visiting small businesses and meeting all types of incredible entrepreneurs. Each time I do, I’m reminded of the importance of helping our innovators bring their ideas to life and providing the support to overcome barriers that may prevent their ideas from reaching their full potential.
As some of you may know, this week is National Entrepreneurship Week, a time to think about how entrepreneurship has strengthened our country and helped many of us achieve the American dream. For most, pursuing entrepreneurship took risk, resulted in ups-and-downs, and, ultimately, moved our communities forward.
My grandfather was an entrepreneur, and his small grocery that turned into a wholesale food distribution business was my family’s ticket to the American Dream. He worked day and night to keep his business afloat, and his hard work and success is a constant reminder of the grit and courage it takes to make it as an entrepreneur. Because of this, I know the importance of looking after our small businesses. When we do, we are protecting the American dream – and the livelihoods of local communities across the country.
In fact, it was largely entrepreneurs who took a risk at building the hard-fought freedom we enjoy in our democratic system. From Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin to Maryland’s Thomas Stone, several of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had learned from the risks associated with launching business ventures before they invested themselves in the risky launch of a new country.
To this day, entrepreneurs give us new ways to think about community needs, and they present us with new ideas to solve the pressing issues at hand.
We also must acknowledge though that the playing field has not been fair to all entrepreneurs. Minority- and women-owned businesses for years have struggled to receive the same amount of funding and support. This has caused serious harm to communities and inhibited upward mobility and building generational wealth. So, when we think about National Entrepreneurship Week, we can celebrate the risk-takers but also renew our commitment to help level the playing field, and in doing so, help all those who benefit from these small businesses prospering.
When a small business is strong, it hires and create jobs that help its neighborhood and region. When small businesses are strong, Maryland is strong. As we’ve seen in the last two years, there’s a boom in the number of new small businesses. In fact, new small businesses are opening at unprecedented rates – nearly a 28% increase over pre-pandemic levels!
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the American workplace nearly overnight and raised interest, voluntarily or involuntarily, in economic self-determination. Suddenly, millions of individuals saw that a fulfilling career can also come from a creative and independent work life. Because of this, we find ourselves at time when the federal government must re-think policies and tools meant to help small businesses. We must ask ourselves if the lending opportunities are meeting underserved business owners where they are, if the market structures are fair, and if there are adequate training resources available.
When I look ahead, I find it important to consider about whether we have enough entrepreneurs in critical areas of our economy. There need to be programs in place, and we must continue to strengthen those programs already in place, to ensure that younger generations believe they can solve the problems of today. Whether it’s climate change or our reliance on foreign governments for critical goods, we must not only help our younger generations bring their ideas to life, we must not let them lose hope that they too can make history.
Just as important is the need to think critically about the needs of different entrepreneurs. This includes a holistic view of the factors that impact success. I’m talking about the availability of affordable child care, affordable health care, and other supports that help make entrepreneurship a tool for all, not only the elite.
So, this National Entrepreneurship Week, I applaud all the entrepreneurs helping our Maryland economy thrive. As chair of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship committee, I am invested in your success. I will do all I can to ensure we have a fair playing field for you to succeed and to help provide the resources to ensure you can compete in changing times.
If you’re a veteran, I encourage you to visit the first veterans business outreach center in Maryland at the University of Maryland. If you’re a female entrepreneur, visit one of the four women’s business centers across the state. Or if you’re just looking for someone to lend a hand, visit one of the Maryland small business development centers. I’ve worked hard to expand these opportunities available to you, and I hope you can take advantage of them.
Thank you for your time. Please feel free to reply to this email with your response, or your thoughts on any topic. I value your feedback.