Five Strategies For Growing Small Businesses in 2018

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Last year, Big Ideas for Small Business, NLC’s national peer network on small business development, convened several times to discuss innovative new approaches for supporting local businesses.

Many of these successful  strategies are ones you should considering implementing in your own city. Below is a brief recap of our key strategies from 2017.

Leveraging Libraries to Support Small Business

We learned how to leverage a too-often-hidden gem: your local public library. Public Library Association Deputy Director Larra Clark shared examples of how libraries in communities of all sizes are helping small businesses get started and grow — often in partnership with other local agencies, nonprofits and business groups. Resources range from co-working spaces to small business centers equipped with specialized services like 3D printers or laser cutters to “embedded” librarians to diverse programs and classes featuring SCORE, SBA or other collaborators.

Related resources: Public Library Association brief and video on libraries supporting entrepreneurship.

Encouraging Cooperative Business Ownership in Boston to Achieve Inclusive Economic Development

The city of Boston is developing strategies to support the creation and expansion of employee-owned businesses, which can take the form of worker cooperatives or employee stock ownership plans, to provide opportunities for residents of varying income levels to build wealth and strengthen the city’s economy.

Related resources: Jason Ewas from the mayor’s office shared descriptions of the city’s first and second workshops on cooperative ownership, as well as a foundational report from the National Center for Employee Ownership.

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Streamlining the Loan Application Process: Philadelphia’s Capital Consortium

The Capital Consortium is a group of nonprofit and for-profit commercial lenders who work together with the Philadelphia Department of Commerce to improve access to capital for small businesses throughout the city. The Consortium provides a streamlined loan application process allowing business owners to request capital simultaneously from multiple lenders using one form.

Philadelphia’s Director of Business Financial Resources, Jonathan Snyder, explained how this new initiative helps local businesses access capital more easily. The Consortium’s member organizations also provide technical assistance to small businesses in order to help them increase their loan eligibility.

Related resources: Capital Consortium Financing Request Form

Building Data Networks Through SourceLink

Many cities in our peer network would like to improve their capacity for business data collection and analysis. With this in mind, we invited Dara Macan and Rob Williams from SourceLink to demo their programs and explain how they can be used to track and measure a city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. SourceLink offers an online platform and in-house expertise to help cities collect data on their entrepreneurial networks.

Related resources: Learn more here about measuring your entrepreneurial ecosystem, and watch this video about how SourceLink connects the dots.

Discovering Your City’s Maker Economy

As the maker economy continues to take shape in cities across the country, it is emerging as a potential powerhouse for building strong local economies through creative maker-microbusinesses and small-scale manufacturing.

Discovering Your City’s Maker Economy is a report co-developed by National League of Cities, EtsyRecast City and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance that aims to provide a roadmap for cities and maker communities on how to collaboratively develop policies, programs and a culture that better supports local maker businesses, micro-producers and small manufacturers. The four key strategies discussed in the report are: creating a supportive business environment, driving demand for locally-made products, providing access to affordable production and retail space, and advocating for state policies that support makers.

Related resources: Etsy’s Craft Entrepreneurship Program, Urban Manufacturing Alliance’s toolkit on local branding, Recast City’s blog series, and the report Making, Scaling, and Inclusion from the Urban Manufacturing Alliance, PolicyLink, and the Pratt Center for Community Development.

The NLC team wishes you a happy new year in which your local, small businesses are healthy and thriving!

About the Author: Emily Robbins is Principal Associate for Economic Development at NLC. Follow Emily on Twitter @robbins617.