If you want to bring real change to Washington D.C., sometimes you have to literally bring it.
The U.S. Chamber celebrated and championed small business this week with the National Small Business Summit. Small business owners of all ages and backgrounds gathered in Washington for a four-day conference on the issues which matters most to small business.
Summit events ranged from breakout sessions to book signings and from Congressional meetings to networking receptions. Attendees heard keynote remarks from a range of successful business owners, including Skinnygirl Founder and “Shark Tank” Judge Bethenny Frankel.
The famed entrepreneur discussed her background in business. Frankel iterated that her entrepreneurial pursuits began at an early age, even prior to her familiarity with the term “entrepreneur.” She noted that her mindset has always been: “If I think of an idea, I want to execute it. I want to see what’s possible.”
Frankel also discussed her role on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” She said that, for those she mentors, she stresses to them that, “The filter has to be really, really tight…This is what you’re doing, try to stay on course...Be passionate about what you’re doing.”
TMobile @Work Senior Vice President Mark Katz and Entrepreneur and “The Profit” Host Marcus Lemonis took to the summit stage for a keynote address on customer-inspired innovation.
Katz illustrated TMobile’s recent evolution through implementing customer-driven practices. He explained that four years ago, the wireless provider was not growing. Thus, changes needed to be made. “We had to do something that the market would notice if we left,” Katz said.
Unlike other wireless providers, TMobile elected to build itself around customers. Katz stressed that it is crucial for all companies to identify, engage, and address the right customers.
If businesses listen to the wrong customers, it can steer them in the wrong direction. “If you had a hair curling business and you were only talking to bald, middle aged men, you would have a problem,” Katz joked.
Lemonis offered similar insights from his work on CNBC’s “The Profit.” He shared that, regardless of profession, business owners stand to gain from technology. “Ultimately, you’re trying to bring you, your personality, your product, or your service to life,” Lemonis said.
Another summit highlight was the Dream Big Award ceremony. The award honors the achievements of the nation’s best small businesses and their contributions to economic growth.
During the soiree, Urbandale, Iowa-based Golden Openings was recognized as the Dream Big Small Business of the Year.
This small business began by supplying giant scissors and ribbon for corporate opening and unveiling ceremonies. Founder Kimberly Baeth’s mission was—and continues to be
—to plan unforgettable ceremonial events through unique products.
U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue said of the award winner,
Golden Openings is a model of how small businesses strengthen their communities and local economies. In business for the past twenty years, Golden Openings has helped thousands of businesses decide how to open their own doors and make a continued impact in their communities. The Chamber is proud to honor Golden Openings as both the 2017 Dream Big Small Business of the Year and as the recipient of the Community Excellence Award.
Several other small businesses received the Business Achievement Awards. The winners were:
- Community Excellence Award: Golden Openings (Urbandale, Iowa)
- Emerging Business Achievement Award: 3 Daughters Brewery (Tampa, Fla.)
- Green/Sustainable Business Achievement Award: TerraCycle, Inc. (Trenton, N.J.)
- Minority-Owned Business Achievement Award: Nightlight Pediatric Urgent Care (Sugar Land, Texas)
- Veteran-Owned Business Achievement Award: Tar Heel Basements (Winston-Salem, N.C)
- Woman-Owned Business Achievement Award: ProjectXYZ, Inc. (Huntsville, Ala.)
The summit concluded with Main Street Ambassadors’ trips to Capitol Hill for meetings with their respective representatives. The crowds of small business advocates came armed with signs, brandishing their support for tax reform. The business owners met with senators and representatives from 49 states, sharing their legislative priorities.
The Small Business Summit provided the ideal platform to celebrate the U.S.’ small businesses. Interacting with keynote speakers and legislators allowed business owners from across the country to voice their concerns and seek solutions that will help their companies to flourish.