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Thank you for attending America's Top Small Business Summit: Ready. Set. Scale. and for following along with our live updates! If you weren't able to watch the event live, the full recap video is available above.

Our America's Top Small Business Gala also took place, where we honored our seven regional finalists and announced our grand prize winner! Catch that replay here!


Closing Remarks

  • Speaker: Steve Patterson, Event Host

“We have explored innovation, tenacity, and the bright future of small business.”

“The spirit of American entrepreneurship and ingenuity … is alive and it is well, and together we have uncovered the power of adaptation, the potential … of technology and the strength of each and every one of you here, America's small business owners.”

“Continue pushing the boundaries of what small businesses can achieve. Your endeavors, I assure you, are not just the backbone, but they are the heartbeat of our economy.”

 A panel on stage at a live event by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Kristen DelGuzzi, VP, Editor-in-Chief, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, interviews Matt Madrigal, VP & General Manager, Merchant Shopping, Google. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The Great Tech Equalizer: How AI Is Helping Small Businesses Compete Better With Big Brands

KD: “A recent report from the U. S. Chamber of Commerce has shown that 23% of small businesses report that they are using AI. Of those small businesses, 82% who are using AI say it's helped them to become more efficient. Seventy-seven percent of those who [said they aren’t using AI] said they didn't know enough about AI or its benefits.”

MM: “[At Google], we've long used AI to make our products significantly more helpful, and we feel like generative AI can take that even one step further.” … “AI is a broad term that refers to a really broad set of advanced computing systems. Most of the AI you see today … is machine learning, and machine learning … learns from examples and then generative AI actually creates something entirely new from the examples that it sees and the information it has exposure to.”

“Google's approach to AI [is that] we believe we have to be both bold and responsible, and we acknowledge that there's a healthy tension between the two. [We] know that in order to be bold with AI for the future, we've got to be responsible from the start.]

KD: What is the best way to use AI on a budget?

MM: “The first thing I want to highlight is the fact that I think there is a misperception out there that AI can only be used by big businesses. That couldn't be further from the truth because there's so many awesome AI power tools specifically to help small businesses.”

“Think about challenges you have with just product imagery. In an e-commerce business, eye-catching imagery is so critical to really highlight and differentiate your brand, your products, and if you leverage it right, it can help even drive sales.”

“You could use our Google product studio, which will take your existing products and put them in like a holiday scene. You could even use those images to improve resolution [or] change the background depending on what use case you want to use. But really, the key takeaway here is [you can use] your existing product assets [to create something awesome] … and you can do that for free with minimal time.”

“[At Google], we’ve found that we see 50 percent higher engagement from our users when they engage with 3D images versus still images. … What we've been able to do with our AI platform is take still imagery that you all send us today and actually create these 3D spins in a way that's really accessible to all businesses.”

KD: What is the best place to start [when integrating AI into services]?

MM: “No. 1 is being super clear about what problem you're trying to solve, and then secondly is one of the success metrics that allows you to really measure how things are going after you integrate AI—in this case, customer service.”

KD: How critical of a piece of the digital revolution do you see AI as?

MM: “I think it's going to continue to be really critical because if you think about some of the experiences that we just talked about, whether it's better imagery, more immersive, life-like shopping experiences, I think it really has the promise to continue to simplify, for example, online retail in a way where … it fulfills the promise of e-commerce from the beginning.”

[AI] gives huge opportunities for businesses to succeed … to thrive.”

[Google’s] goal is to really help businesses of all sizes succeed. And as part of this ecosystem, the thing we want to do is make sure that we connect merchants with customers who are looking for one another. To be clear, we're not a retailer and we're not a marketplace. So our job is to facilitate the connection for you all as business owners to the consumers who are looking for you.”

 A panel takes the stage at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce live event.
Jeanette Mulvey of CO— interviews two finalists: Will Chen of P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle and You, and Dan Newman of Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

LIVE! FROM THE USCC SMALL BUSINESS STAGE—Teamwork for Growth: Hiring and Building an Employee Team That Loves What They Do

  • Moderator: Jeanette Mulvey, VP & Editor-in-Chief, CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Will Chen, Founder and CEO, P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle and You. Our Western regional finalist, P.L.A.Y Pet Lifestyle and You, is a San Francisco, California-based business offering an array of eco-friendly pet products and accessories that cater to the needs of pet parents worldwide.
  • Dan Newman, Founder, CEO, & Principal Auctioneer, Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals. Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals, our Northwest regional finalist, is an Achorage, Alaska-based auction house that facilitates the auction of assets ranging from personal belongings to real estate and commercial equipment.

JM: Can you talk about how [having a small team] works at your company?

WC: “I always tell people that small business is not for everyone. You need to be prepared [for] times where you have to do things that are … outside your work scope. Or, [if] you come from [a] bigger [company], you probably are used to having a lot of things taken care of … you want to travel, you call your travel team. In a small business, you [make] your own arrangements … For us, it's really about setting the expectation right and being transparent about what small business is about.”

JM: How do you leverage your employees and your overall process to differentiate yourself from competition?

DN: “Our employees are the lifeblood of our organization. There's a lot of labor involved when it comes to dealing with people's assets or their prized treasures. And so, finding the right folks that see the value and the different types of assets that we're selling and take care of them with care is critical. Making sure that we differentiate ourselves and really strive for excellence every single day and being the premier auction house."

JM: How do you involve your team in figuring out what that [evolution] looks like?

WC: “For us, from ideation to test of concept to sampling the iterative rounds of trying to improve a product, we actually involve … [our] small team, so it's not difficult to involve everyone, to get some feedback, to hear the voice of the customer. It's … easy for us to get everyone passionate and continue to feel the compassion for the products.”

JM: “That is a challenge for small businesses everywhere … finding good, talented, committed employees.”

DN: “We try also to invest in our employees as much as possible. And whether it is earning a designation or a certification or training … the more that we can help [our employees] be the best that they can be within the industry, the longer it's going to pay dividends for our company.” … If we don't take care of our employees, there's no way they can take care of our clients.”

To learn more about these businesses, check out their profiles on CO—:

 A panel takes the stage at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce America's Top Small Business event.
Event host Steve Patterson interviews Cory Kampfer, Co-President of Small Business Lending at Enova. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Demystifying the Funding Process for Growing Small Businesses

  • Moderator: Steve Patterson, Event Host
  • Event Host Speaker: Cory Kampfer, Co-President, Small Business Lending, Enova

“Big banks … tend to gravitate toward a larger customer versus the bicycle shop that needs a loan of $40,000 [or] $50,000. Those businesses are what we're designed to serve. We're able to provide that online application that they can apply for after business hours. They don't have to go into a bank branch. And they can get a quick decision in a matter of minutes and funding as soon as the next day.”

“It's very difficult for the traditional financial institutions that leverage more traditional underwriting to make those decisions very expediently. And then often at the end of that process, it's a ‘no’ in terms of extension [of] credit.”

Myths about online small business lending

“People were gravitating more and more to doing things online pre-pandemic. And then the pandemic really accelerated that push, [and] people got even more comfortable doing things online. It's … so convenient and easy to apply for that loan … when it's convenient for you … and then get the answer.”

“It’s so rewarding to see small businesses grow and thrive. We're a partner. It's the business owner who's … the hero … [and is] able to enhance their community, their customers, their employees. That's our mission … empowering the small businesses themselves.”

Advice for small business owners who feel trepidation about applying for a loan online

“Any lender who's not providing you with a very clear readout of exactly what [your loan terms] look like and [isn’t] willing to talk you through the process is someone you may want to be a bit wary of, because it is a big decision. [Explaining] how everything works in a very clear and simple way is something we've been always committed to doing and we think it's the right thing for our customers.”

 Event attendee Carlos Walter poses with a T-Mobile representative after winning a new iPhone.
Attendee Carlos Walter (right) of Latam Corporate Services was the lucky winner of a brand-new iPhone 15, provided by T-Mobile. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce
 A panel takes the stage at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce America's Top Small Business summit event.
Jeanette Mulvey of CO— interviews three finalists: Caitlin Drayna (Shakopee Brewhall), Lillian Werbin (Elderly Instruments), and Denise Einkauf (Waggin' Tails Pet Ranch). — U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Tactics for Building Customer & Community Loyalty

  • Moderator: Jeanette Mulvey, VP & Editor-in-Chief, CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Caitlin Drayna, Events & Community Engagement Coordinator, Shakopee Brewhall. Shakopee Brewhall, our Midwest regional finalist, is a Shakopee, Minnesota-based brewery and coffee house that serves various styles of beer, handcrafted coffees, and a family-friendly experience to its local community.
  • Lillian Werbin, CEO & Co-Owner, Elderly Instruments. Our Great Lakes regional finalist, Elderly Instruments is a Lansing, Michigan-based family-owned music shop that aims to offer an immersive and inclusive musical experience to all who enter its doors.
  • Denise Einkauf, Owner President, Waggin' Tails Pet Ranch. Waggin' Tails Pet Ranch, our Southwest and South Central regional finalist, is a Fulshear, Texas-based family-owned pet resort offering all-inclusive pet care services, from boarding and day camp to grooming and training.

“We have to build trust. If the people don't trust us, they're not going to leave their family with us. So it does take consistency from the ground up. All of our employees [are] … trained that we have to all think that that pet is part of our family when they stay [with us], because they're part of the family that drops them off.” (Denise Einkauf)

“There is the global music market, national music market, and local music market. We try to support at all levels. We've been shipping internationally since 1975. And to scale it back into the local … we'll host musicians to perform or we'll host a jam [session] so people can just come and play. No matter where we are, we can … supply the instruments or the platform for people to play together, which promotes music in all sorts of ways.” (Lillian Werbin)

“It's always that question of, ‘What does the customer want? What are they looking for?’ And so, it’s just having that pulse constantly on our customer base. We sit in our tap room and … [when] customers come in, we have chats with them about what they're looking for. Sometimes they throw out a really ‘out there’ idea … but it's always worth a try to see if something will come off the ground.” (Caitlin Drayna)

To learn more about these businesses, check out their profiles on CO—:

Trend Watch: Krishna Nacha, Senior Vice President, Head of North America, Iron Mountain Global Records and Information Management.

Trend Watch with Iron Mountain

Speaker: Krishna Nacha, Senior Vice President, Head of North America, Iron Mountain Global Records and Information Management

By the numbers:

“Small businesses are three times more at risk for cyber attacks. Nearly 45% of cyber attacks are targeted at small and medium businesses, and the chances are they never get reported.”

“More than 90% of [businesses] said … they are completely re-examining and re-evaluating how they anticipate, predict, and manage risk, because what worked in the past doesn't work going forward.”

Best advice for small businesses

“Technology is both the greatest risk and also the greatest ally in fixing that risk.”

“Leverage technology. [Continue] to invest in foundational technology initiatives, especially to protect yourself from cyber threats.”

“Prioritize your people. It doesn't matter whether you're a five-person shop or a 100-person shop. It is training your people to identify proactively the risks. That can … go a long way, even as you make all the other investments.”

 Neil Bradley and Jenna Shrove, both of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on the event stage.
Neil Bradley, Executive VP & Chief Policy Officer, and Jenna Shrove, Executive Director of Strategic Advocacy, both of the U.S. Chamber, discuss the state of small businesses. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

State of Small Business

JS: What would you say the state of American small business is?

NB: “We saw the second highest number of small, new small business starts in our history. So, every day, people are waking up in the midst of political chaos, global threats, 40-year-high record inflation, and they're saying, ‘I have a really good idea, and I have a plan, and I'm going to turn that into a business. I'm going to put … my own capital and … time on the line to turn that into a reality.”

“It's especially tough in a tight labor market to figure out how you maintain a mix of compensation that gets you the employees, but that [also lets] you remain competitive. And so I think that, unfortunately, is likely to be a challenge for businesses.”

“The natural advantage that small businesses have … is about community. It’s really hard to get that in a lot of larger employment contexts. The employee experience, particularly for a small business, is one of the super strengths … of small businesses and being able to attract [talent].”

“There’s a lot of innovation going on that’s helping people attract employees.”

“Government has a really important role to play. And one of the most important roles is public safety and the protection of property. If you can't operate a safe store, if you can't be confident ... that people will be deterred and if not deterred, apprehended and punished for robbing your stores, for disturbing your customers … that's really hard to operate.”

JS: What is your best advice for aspiring small business?

NB: “Keep doing what you’re doing. Only you know the motivations and ‘why.’ No one knows your business better than you do.”

“We're reliant on you in our communities. We're reliant on you as a nation. And so, at the Chamber, we're just going to cheerlead. We're going to try to make sure that we get the public policy right. We're going to stop the headwinds and … put more of a tailwind at your back and let you do the amazing … innovative things that you do.”

 Panel interview on the Small Business Stage at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event.
Jeanette Mulvey, Editor-in-Chief of CO—, interviews two finalists: Mark Estomin, owner of Calgo Gardens, and April Peterson, co-owner of River Rock Outfitter. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce


Big Ideas: Creative Pivots That Transformed Our Small Business

  • Moderator: Jeanette Mulvey, VP & Editor-in-Chief, CO— by U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Mark Estomin, Owner, Calgo Gardens. Our Eastern regional finalist, Calgo Gardens is a Howell, New Jersey-based landscaping company and boutique nursery shop that offers commercial and residential outdoor design services as well as on-site workshops and arts events.
  • April Peterson, Co-owner, River Rock Outfitter. River Rock Outfitter, our Southeastern regional finalist, is a Fredericksburg, Virginia-based woman-owned specialty outdoor brand with a mission to promote outdoor recreation and conservation, and motivate individuals, especially from underserved communities, to explore nature.

“You can’t out-Amazon, Amazon. You can't out-Target, Target. So what a small business needs to do is figure out what your competitors can't do and what they won't do.” (April Peterson)

“We had to pivot really quickly and redo our business model based around the idea that we had to build our customer base. We had to teach our community. We had to build our community … [and] show them that we have an outdoor recreational economy in our community.” (April Peterson)

“We were in business before social media. We had been trying all these different types of things and we were always asking ourselves, ‘What are we?’ People sometimes don't associate … a garden center with wellness and art and events that we have on-site. So when we started to do advertising, it was always hit and miss. But social media's added a new … venue to reach people.” (Mark Estomin)

To learn more about these businesses, check out their profiles on CO—:

 Sean Magowan, Solutions Engineer for T-Mobile on the event stage at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Trend Watch: Sean Magowan, Solutions Engineer, T-Mobile shares how T-Mobile aims to help businesses nationwide. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Trend Watch with T-Mobile

Sean Magowan, Solutions Engineer, T-Mobile, shares how T-Mobile's network aims to improve business internet for business owners nationwide.

 Panel on stage at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's America's Top Small Business Summit event.
Barbara Thau, Editorial Director, Features, for CO— interviews panelists Ashley Hubka (of Walmart Business) and Ciara McCoy (of Meta). — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Big Business Platforms to Automate and Accelerate Small Business Growth

How Meta is helping to accelerate small business growth

“When technology advances … it really democratizes the ability for small businesses to be in spaces that might have traditionally been reserved for bigger businesses … with bigger budgets.” (Ciara McCoy)

“Every business right here across the country, across the world, should be thinking about … how [to] leverage AI to automate some of your business processes … [and] how to refine your strategies. It's only going to get better and it's going to help the businesses and your businesses grow.” (Ciara McCoy)

“The two [pain points] that I hear [from small businesses] most often are No. 1, access to capital. That continues to be an issue, especially for women-owned and minority-owned businesses. The second thing I hear is time. There's just not enough time in the day to do everything … you need to do. When you're the CEO of everything, it's really, really tough. And this is why I get so excited about AI, because I think it has the ability to give businesses time back [and] … allow you to … spend your mind working on new things that could grow your business to the next level.” (Ciara McCoy)

How Walmart Business is helping to accelerate small business growth

“Fifty-five percent of small business owners tell us that inflation and costs are a barrier to growth, so … the heart and foundation of Walmart Business is bringing the scale of Walmart to small businesses through EDLP [Everyday Low Prices].” (Ashley Hubka)

“[At] Walmart, we are growing together with small businesses, and we do that by operating as an ecosystem.” (Ashley Hubka)

“Walmart Business is a new … omnichannel experience … tailored for small businesses. We built it around three ideas. One, how do we help you simplify and save money on your business purchasing? Two, how do we help you stay in control and in stock? And … third is to create efficiencies to operate and to grow.” (Ashley Hubka)

“AR is probably the best opportunity right now for a small business, especially if you have a product that you can try on. This is really just going to be more ways and more platforms, more surfaces for you to be able to … share your brand story and get your business in front of potential customers.” (Ciara McCoy)

Best advice for small businesses

McCoy: “Find your small business community. Go find other business owners. You're not doing this alone. There's so much to learn from other business owners.”

Hubka: “Have a plan. You probably won't execute it, but … going through that thinking, picking one alternative versus another, [will] make the thing you pick better. You'll have a fallback if the first thing doesn't work out, and then when you have to pivot, you've done some of that groundwork.”

 Suzanne Clark presenting her keynote speech at the America's Top Small Business Summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Suzanne Clark, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opens today's America's Top Small Business event. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Introduction and Keynote

Suzanne Clark, President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

“Small business owners understand at a really granular level what a job means to a family. What it means to a community. A steady paycheck [means] financial security. Support for the family. Dignity. Self-determination. Accomplishment. Hope.”

“We believe that a business of any size should have a fighting chance to prove their value in the market. And we advocate tirelessly for a policy environment that allows you to create jobs, solve problems, and create more growth and opportunity at home.”

“Each of these [America’s Top Small Business] finalists has represented the resilience and growth mindset of the American Dream. They're putting their dreams to work, solving problems, [and] strengthening society every day.”

“You're the dreamers, you're the doers, you're the innovators. And the Chamber exists for only one reason … and that is to keep you dreaming, keep you doing, and keep you innovating.”

 Great Hall at the USCC building set up for an event.
Welcome to today's program! — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Welcome to America's Top Small Business Summit: Ready. Set. Scale.!

Speaker: Steve Patterson, Event Host

"This year, the U.S. Chamber received 15,000 applications from every corner of the country. They narrowed it down to the top 70 contenders for the final seven spots. Now, each of these 70 businesses stands at the forefront of entrepreneurialism and innovation, each worthy of the title, America's Top Small Business."

“The path [to success] is … rarely easy. It’s rarely straightforward. There are often bumps, hills, and sometimes what feel like … insurmountable mountains that are in your way. And … there's failure. Often more than just the singular version of failure. Yet, more often than not, the path to success is marked by your unyielding spirit.”

Gearing up for a full day of business inspiration and advice!

Thanks for following along virtually with our America's Top Small Business Summit: Ready. Set. Scale.! We will be posting live updates here as the event continues throughout the day.

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