Back to the Basics: Supporting Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Efrem Bycer
May 5, 2016 · 3 min read

Small businesses and entrepreneurs are the backbone of the U.S. economy. America’s 28 million small businesses create two out of every three jobs, and they’ve led our economic resurgence coming out of the Great Recession. For all of this and much more, President Obama continued the 50-year tradition of designating the first week of May as National Small Business Week.

Cabinet member and Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet kicked off National Small Business week by praising the impact and passion of small business owners and entrepreneurs. There is an urgency among governments nationwide to redesign business services that can maximize and sustain this positive economic impact. And Code for America can help.

Let’s celebrate National Small Business Week by getting the basics right: entrepreneurs can seamlessly start new businesses, existing businesses expand and create jobs, and jobseekers are connected to the skills to succeed in the occupations and industries of the future.

Too often, small businesses and entrepreneurs struggle to find the right information to navigate complex government regulations. This is an immediate, “hair on fire” problem identified by entrepreneurs and government staff, alike. Outdated services like paper-based permit applications are hampering opportunity for thousands of entrepreneurs and contributing to the growing economic divide. Fixing this requires redesigning core services like creating a digital permitting process to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and speed up the process.

That’s precisely why the White House and SBA launched Startup In a Day last year. It’s why National League of Cities and Code for America joined a partnership to convene more than 85 cities who’ve already pledged to create a better experience for small businesses and share practices and lessons learned through a community of practice.

Code for America is working to put the needs of entrepreneurs first with the City of Long Beach, a winner of a Startup in a Day prize and a partner for the 2016 Code for America Fellowship. Together, we’re leveraging a user-centric, agile approach to build a new business portal that addresses a far too common problem among entrepreneurs: the lack of clear information and centralized resources.

Entrepreneurs have said over and over: “I don’t know what I don’t know, so I don’t even know what questions to ask.” The tool being developed in Long Beach will provide entrepreneurs with a streamlined experience interacting with government services and make sure they get connected to the right resources quickly. By starting with and meeting the needs of entrepreneurs, we stand the greatest chance of promoting broad-based economic prosperity.

Other Startup in a Day cities are using civic technology to make it easier for entrepreneurs to get their businesses started in less time. Los Angeles launched an open-sourced business portal, Santa Cruz developed an online business roadmap, and Jackson is launching a digital permitting system. Cities nationwide are responding to the basic needs of economic development in the 21st century, and they’re taking their responsibility to promote equitable growth seriously.

As National Small Business Week 2016 comes to a close, here are a few things you can do to join us:

  • Take the Startup In a Day pledge. Learn more about taking the pledge by visiting SBA’s website. Once your government takes the pledge, you’ll be invited to participate in the Startup in a Day community of practice.
  • Use the practices of 21st century government. Build capacity within your organization for a more user-centric and agile government by using best practices like building and designing digital tools, providing access, and cultivating the right internal culture.
  • Stay in the know. Join Code for America’s Economic Development mailing list to learn about new resources and see how other governments are improving how they interact with small businesses.

Code for America Blog

Writing and thinking about government that works for people, by people, in the 21st century.

Efrem Bycer

Written by

Economic development, social impact, civic engagement, and brewer of Beeraucracy. #DadLife

Code for America Blog

Writing and thinking about government that works for people, by people, in the 21st century.

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