Updated Mar 21, 2023 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on the state of play for small business

On Tuesday, March 21, Axios Today host Niala Boodhoo and Axios D.C. reporter Paige Hopkins led conversations looking at the solutions and challenges affecting the state of play for small businesses this year. Guests included SBA administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman, Busboys and Poets founder and CEO Andy Shallal and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). A View from the Top sponsored segment featured Intuit CEO Sasan Goodarzi and University of Chicago Arnold C. Harberger professor in economics Dr. Ufuk Akcigit.

Isabella Casillas Guzman shared her primary message to small business owners during today’s period of economic uncertainty.

  • On remaining hopeful for the continued growth of small businesses despite current economic headwinds: “For sure there’s been extreme uncertainty, I think that what’s important to note though, from an overall perspective, we’ve had a historic economic recovery. Ten and a half million people applied to start a business in the last two years. That’s a record high, 84% higher than historical averages. That’s a lot of hope, as the President says, with each application that’s filed…and now more than ever, as they’re challenged with uncertainty, it’s important that we have these great government programs that can help them in their pathways to start and grow their businesses.”

Andy Shallal emphasized the important role that culture and intentional leadership have played in helping him grow his small business while also fostering a positive and supportive work environment for his employees.

  • On the recently passed Initiative 82 that will change how tipped workers get paid in Washington, D.C.: “I think tipping is a relic of the past…for whatever reason, restaurant workers have always been paid a sub-minimum wage and the tips make up for it, where basically the customers become the employers of the individual that’s working there. I do think that it’s time for that to go away because it’s unfair for somebody to be there working and depending on a customer’s whim whether or not they can make a living.”

Sen. Joni Ernst explained how regional banks tightening access to credit in response to an uncertain banking environment could impact small businesses.

  • On whether the current banking environment will affect small business owners: “It could, and we know how important those regional banks, those community banks are in the rural areas, that’s where we access our loans in rural Iowa. We have to have those partners. So again, just working with those banks and helping them where we can is very important. It doesn’t help when we have other entities like we’ve seen with Silicon Valley Bank that engage in very risky behavior, maybe don’t have the oversight of the regulators like they should, then it does make others be a little more concerned about how are we doing our banking practices?”

In the View from the Top segment, Sasan Goodarzi and Dr. Ufuk Akcigit highlighted top takeaways on how they’re seeing small business owners deal with current economic challenges.

  • Sasan Goodarzi: “For us it’s always a reminder that small businesses are true survivors. They truly focus on how to reinvent themselves, how to reinvent the business that they’re in, and they’re fighters. What we have seen from when COVID took place in 2020 and what we’re continuing to see is just that. I would say the second thing is there is a much more sort of aggressive approach to digitizing their whole business, and for small businesses, digitizing simply means I need to be able to manage my cash flow…the third thing, it depends by industry and by state, but what we’re actually seeing is a far easier time to hire versus several years ago…”

Thank you Intuit Quickbooks for sponsoring this event.

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