by DIANE HARDY || When it comes to business, who’s looking out for the little guys in South Carolina? Do they have a strong enough voice in our state’s policy decision-making? After what I witnessed in 2020 – and as a Greenville small business owner myself (with 33 employees) – I really wanted to know the answers to these questions. What I discovered was sadly disappointing. I learned that, as a group, small and family-owned businesses have little representation in the S.C. House and Senate relative to their collective size.
We all know that small businesses in South Carolina are the backbone of the economy, but most of us have no grasp of how many people make up the small business community in our state. Whenever I speak to civic/ political groups I ask the audience to guess how many small businesses there are in South Carolina. They might guess 10,000, 50,000, or 85,000, but the answer (according to the Small Business Administration’s website) is over 384,000, and they employ approximately 740,000 people.
That is a very large number! By comparison, the number of teachers employed in our state’s public school system is approximately 48,000 – yet they have tremendous influence with our state legislature!
So where is the voice for South Carolina’s true small business owners? The S.C. Chamber of Commerce may advocate for some pro-business policies, but over time they have become more aligned with big business and are also actively promoting legislation that is probably not too top-of-mind for most small business owners – such as hate crime legislation and climate change policies. The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) is focused on small business and does great work, but they are national in scope – and some business owners may not be able to afford their dues.
Consequently, I saw a real need for a VERY affordable statewide organization created by business owners, for business owners, to help grow the voice of South Carolina’s Mom and Pop businesses.
It’s been heartbreaking to see business owners (through no fault of their own) get crushed over this past year. Their stories inspired me to donate my time to create and launch the Mom and Pop Alliance (www.MomandPopAlliance.org). Our statewide organization serves as a liaison between small business owners and state government – seeking solutions and good governance policies supportive of our state’s small and family-owned businesses. We also help keep business owners up to date on what is happening legislatively – including bills and policy proposals that could affect them.
Building relationships is the cornerstone of the Alliance. From visiting the State House to meeting one-on-one with legislators and small business owners, MAPA strives to give a stronger collective voice to the hundreds of thousands of small and family-owned businesses in our great state, and by extension, to the 740,000 citizens they employ.
Any privately owned business can join Mom and Pop for a nominal fee: $35/ annually for 1-5 employees or $75/ annually for 6+ employees. We also have an Associate Membership for non-business owners who simply want to support the cause. Our all-volunteer staff allows us to keep dues very low, with every penny going toward operating expenses. Currently, we have businesses members with one employee up to 120 – but most have just a handful.
There is strength in numbers, so I hope you will check out our website and consider taking two minutes to join the Mom and Pop Alliance at www.MomandPopAlliance.org. It’s time for the 384,000 of us small businesses to become stronger together!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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Diane Hardy is a former nurse anesthetist turned entrepreneur, who owns and operates a franchise in Greenville. She also serves on the Boards of The Center for Self Governance as well as the Greenville Professional Women’s Forum. Her love for our state isn’t new. Before launching the Mom and Pop Alliance she was the founder and host of The Palmetto Panel, an annual statewide conference highlighting issues impacting South Carolina.
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