October 19, 2023


Thank you, Steve. And good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining America’s Top Small Business Summit. 

Today, we are celebrating the vital role our nation’s entrepreneurs and small businesses play in our communities—and our economy. We’re bringing some of the best and brightest small business owners together with leaders from some of America’s most successful companies.  

You will have the opportunity to network with your peers, discover new strategies to grow your business, and learn from fellow entrepreneurs. 

I want to thank our Presenting Sponsors—Enova and its small business lending platform, OnDeck—for making this summit possible, and all of our sponsors—Dell Technologies, FedEx, Experian Employer Services, Iron Mountain, Oracle NetSuite, Square, T-Mobile For Business, and Walmart Business—for their generous support. 

And a big thank you to all the small businesses owners and entrepreneurs who are taking time away from their work or who have traveled to join us. We know there are many demands on your time and resources, and we’re honored that you have chosen to spend them here with us today. 

America's Top Small Business Keynote: Suzanne P. Clark, President & CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Representing hundreds of thousands of small businesses is one of the most impactful things we do here at the Chamber. It’s also something I’m deeply passionate about because I’ve been in your shoes. I’ve sat where you are sitting. 

Having founded and run a small business, I understand firsthand both the thrill and the trepidation of entrepreneurship. Taking that risk yourself—putting your name, your brand, and your personal capital on the line—I know what it’s like to take that leap. 

There are the pressures of making payroll, the responsibility of signing the front of the check, and there’s also the joy of telling someone, “You got the job.” One of my proudest accomplishments was creating 23 good-paying jobs.  

Small business owners truly understand what a job means to an individual and a community. It means a steady paycheck, financial security, and support for a family. It means dignity, self-determination, accomplishment, and hope. 

And knowing you are making a difference, you are changing lives, and you are lifting your community is what sustains you through the challenges. It makes the long days worth every minute and the sweat equity worth every drop. 

That desire to create jobs and opportunity is what made me love being a small business owner—and it’s what led me back to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the role I now hold. 

During my time as an entrepreneur and a CEO of a fast-growing company, I learned firsthand how some of the biggest challenges businesses face come from a place few have much experience with—Washington D.C. 

When you run a small business, you don’t just play one role—you might also be the office manager, the bookkeeper, the chief human resources officer, and the head of IT. And with everything Washington is throwing at you—the gridlock and uncertainty, the overregulation and tax burden—you probably feel like you need to be a lobbyist or a lawyer or a policy expert too. 

Who has time for all that? I know you don’t!  

But all of us here at the Chamber do. And we are here to help. 

From workforce shortages to regulatory overreach, inflationary pressures, rising interest rates, access to capital, rising retail crime, and the threat of out-of-control tax-and-spend policies from Washington—the Chamber is here to help. 

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

I’ll share just a few examples… 

We have a Small Business Council of 100 small business owners from across the country who visit Capitol Hill, meet with lawmakers, and steer our work fighting for policies that make running their businesses easier. 

We work shoulder-to-shoulder with our federation of state and local chambers of commerce across the country to advocate together on the local, state, and national level with one strong voice on key policy matters. 

We partner with MetLife to survey small businesses on a quarterly basis. It informs our advocacy, allows us to tell policymakers how they can better help your business, and helps keep our finger on the pulse of the issues that matter most. 

We are fighting efforts in Washington to raise taxes on businesses, especially when they target small businesses or try to increase corporate tax rates. 

When it comes to trade, more than 97% of the 270,000 American companies that export are small and medium-sized businesses, and they generate about one-third of U.S. merchandise exports. That’s why the Chamber continues to push for a bold trade agenda, which would produce big benefits for working families and our small business job creators. 

We are holding government agencies accountable when they go beyond Congressional and constitutional authority, even if it means taking them to court. 

We’re demanding meaningful reforms to America’s outdated permitting process because it is unacceptable that a federal permit takes up to seven-and-a-half years to be approved. In local communities all across the country, these expensive, time-consuming delays are holding up projects—large and small—and squandering opportunities for growth.  

We are leading a multi-faceted effort to address one of the most acute challenges facing small businesses—the worker shortage crisis. Working alongside a strong coalition of partners, we are advancing policies that prepare today’s workforce for the jobs of tomorrow and reform our immigration policies to meet the needs of the 21st century. 

At the Chamber, we are proud to support and fight for the entire ecosystem of business because that’s exactly what our economy is—a diverse ecosystem. Big, small, and everything in between. 

And those in Washington who try to pit big against small don’t understand our economy at all.  

Yes, small businesses rely on big business—but big businesses also depend on small. They are each other’s vendors, suppliers, customers, and partners, and they each employ the consumers that keep the whole system afloat. 

That’s why earlier this year, we launched our Prompt Pay Pledge calling for companies to pay their small business suppliers more quickly so they can invest and grow. When small suppliers have adequate cash flow, they can make improvements like faster shipping and better materials and products that benefit their customers. 

We’re thrilled that Intuit, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citadel, Siemens, AGCO, Alpha Technologies, and more than 25 other companies have already signed onto this pledge. 

Now, some of you may be thinking, “This advocacy work is important and I’m glad the Chamber is doing it, but what I’m really focused on is just getting my startup off the ground or keeping the business running for another day.” 

Or you may be thinking, “I’m a small business today, but I want to be a big business tomorrow. I want to grow.” 

The Chamber can help with that too.  

Many of you are familiar with our small business digital platform, CO—, and have used it as a resource. For those who haven’t utilized CO— yet, it connects the Chamber with more than six million small businesses a year to help them start, run, and grow their small businesses.  

We connect with entrepreneurs at all stages of their journey and meet them where they are with advice that is urgent, relevant, and inspiring.  

During the pandemic and ensuing startup boom, CO— helped millions of businesses navigate surviving and thriving in this new era of small business ownership. 

CO— helps businesses achieve their full potential and lifts up small business success stories across the country. 

Today, we will have the chance to hear from the finalists of our “America’s Top Small Business” awards program. From a record-breaking field of more than 15,000 applicants, we narrowed it down to America’s top 70 small businesses and I’m happy to see that so many of you are with us here today.  

You are all winners because of your deep community engagement, creative success strategies, and ability to overcome challenges. 

We are now down to seven finalists, and tonight, one of them will be named “America’s Top Small Business.”  

Each of these small businesses represents the resilience and growth mindset of American entrepreneurship. They are putting their dreams to work, solving problems, and strengthening society every day, and I want to ask our top 70 honorees and our seven finalists who are joining us this morning to please stand up and be recognized. 

Congratulations on your accomplishments. Your stories are an inspiration to us all and they inspire the work of the Chamber every day. 

It takes courage and sacrifice to start a small business. It takes grit and determination to keep it going. And it takes ideas and ingenuity to change the world. 

You are the dreamers, the doers, and the innovators—and the Chamber exists to help you keep dreaming, keep doing, and keep innovating. 

We are proud to stand with you, we will keep fighting for you, and we always have your back. 

Thank you for all that you do—and enjoy this year’s summit.