Small Businesses, Big Hearts
April 30–May 6, 2023, was National Small Business Week. Every year since 1963, this event has recognized the critical contributions of entrepreneurs and small business owners. DocuSend serves small businesses every day, so it seems appropriate for us to join in and lift up the unsung heroes among small business owners.
Small business has been called the engine of the economy and the heart of our communities. There are 33,2 million small businesses in the USA right now, and they create the majority of job positions: two out of every three new jobs come from small businesses, and half the workforce either works for or owns a small business.
But they do so much more than drive the economy. Small business owners are known for the heroism of bootstrapping a startup from a garage or basement with passion and enthusiasm. They inspire others by overcoming obstacles and hardships—both in business and their personal lives—and using these as opportunities to learn and grow. And while small business owners are under no obligation to use their limited resources to give beyond their workspace, they are often the people leading the way in making meaningful changes in their communities.
What the SBA praises small businesses for
Each year small businesses are recognized by the US Small Business Administration (SBA) for:
We want to take this opportunity to express appreciation for the many small business owners who go the extra mile for their employees, their communities, and the environment. After you’ve read the stories we share here, if you have any to add, we’d love to hear about them in the Comments section below.
Inspiring Stories of Overcoming Adversity
For many small businesses, theirs is a story of overcoming adversity and beating the odds to become successful and give back.
The Chocolate Spectrum is a chocolate shop based in Florida. It was founded in 2013 by Valerie Herskowitz, who wanted to create a business that would provide training and employment opportunities to individuals with developmental disabilities. The company specializes in artisanal chocolates, and all of their products are made by individuals on the autism spectrum.
The Chocolate Spectrum's mission is to create a supportive and inclusive work environment where individuals with autism can thrive. They provide training and support to help their employees develop their skills and reach their full potential.
In addition to their regular chocolate products that are both delicious and socially responsible, the Chocolate Spectrum also offers custom-made chocolates for special occasions like weddings and corporate events.
John’s Crazy Socks is an online sock store founded by a young man with Down syndrome, John Lee Cronin, along with his father. Theirs is a “business built on love” that is on a mission to spread happiness with crazy, colorful socks. Because of his dad’s support, John was able to put his entrepreneurial spirit to work. John is the face of the business, while his father runs the more technical aspects.
This startup is inspiring enough on its own, but the story doesn’t stop there. The Cronins donate 5 percent of their profits to the Special Olympics, a cause close to John, who has competed in several events. They also sell socks to raise Down syndrome awareness and autism awareness.
Rising Tide Car Wash was created by CEO John D'Eri to provide employment opportunities for individuals with autism, including his own son Andrew. John decided to buy the car wash after realizing the limited options available for Andrew and others like him once they aged out of the school system. John and his other son Thomas collaborated to identify the underlying factors that contribute to the high rate of unemployment among people with autism. Even though society tends to label individuals with autism as disabled, which limits their opportunities to excel in life, the founders of Rising Tide Car Wash recognized the unique strengths of people with autism and tried to create a business culture that boosts those strengths to provides customers with the highest quality experience. The car wash, which was failing when John bought it, is now highly profitable and employs many team members with autism. The company has built a second, very successful location. They were able to reveal the potential of each employee and achieve success. A slogan on their website says it all: Everyone wins when anyone can win.
Many small business owners use their expertise to serve in ways outside their company too. Jenny Brongo founded the nonprofit Homesteads for Hope using the leadership skills and knowledge of construction gained as the owner of her family’s construction company. After finding a lack of institutions that were providing the hundreds of intellectually and developmentally disabled adults in her region with the care they deserved, she decided it was time to do something about it. Homesteads for Hope combines residential, vocational, and recreational options in a community setting that promotes independent living for adults with disabilities.
More Ways Small Businesses Are Going the Extra Mile
Not all small businesses overcome extreme adversity or show up in the national spotlight, but all can nonetheless seek ways to give back to their communities, employees, and the environment by going the extra mile.
One way small businesses give back is by providing a supportive work environment for their own employees. Workers perform best with the emotional support and the mental health resources they need. While it can be a difficult balance to maintain professional boundaries while showing compassion, it ultimately is in the business’ best interest to keep its employees happy and healthy. Providing time off, flexible schedules and resources and referrals for better health are all ways businesses go above and beyond for their workers. They also provide financial relief by helping employees repay their student loans.
Another way businesses go the extra mile is with social impact. Maybe a small business owner isn’t in a position to start a new nonprofit, but they might still find ways to be socially and environmentally conscious with their business partnerships. By sourcing from and partnering with other businesses and services that put community and environment first, a business can provide significant support in improving the community locally and beyond.
We know that for many small businesses, their efforts to overcome, to grow and to serve go largely unnoticed. But that doesn’t make them any less heroic as they are changing lives. From the developmentally disabled barista who loves her job and her life to the playground made with recycled materials, each small business is making an impact, one step at a time.