Dear Micro Business Owner,
Let me introduce myself. My name is Tanya Goodall Smith, and since 2006, I’ve owned a business in one form or another. Through multiple moves around the country, the birth of my three babies, and working around the demanding schedule of my spouse’s job, I soldiered on. When my yearly profit was literally five dollars and I kept asking, “Why am I even doing this?! I could make more money working in fast food!” I still never gave up.
Can you relate? I hear you. I feel you. I am you. And I’m happy to report I now make far more money and work fewer hours than I would manning the drive through. I get to spend time with family, enjoy a low-stress lifestyle, and do the work I love. All the effort paid off.
But, I wish I had received the tools to succeed much sooner. There had been no mentor, guide, or business training weaved into my education. My degree is in graphic design, and while I was a proficient and experienced designer, I didn’t know how to price, let alone market my services, make a sale, send an invoice, bookkeep, or anything else business related. For years, I fumbled my way through.
So, I’m writing to you, dear micro business owner, hoping to be the resource I sorely needed. Benefit from the lessons I’ve learned along the way, and I’ll also pass along key resources I wish I’d known about sooner. But first, let’s go over an important distinction: what separates a small business and a micro business?
The Small Business Administration defines a micro business as having one to nine employees, including sole proprietors with no employees. It’s considered a subset of “small business” and is an important designation, in my opinion. For funding and other purposes, small businesses can include up to five hundred employees with six million dollars or less in revenue. That’s a huge difference.
The majority of American businesses are micro businesses. According to the 2019 U.S. census, 96 percent of businesses have fewer than ten employees, including sole proprietors. Half of these fail before they reach five years in business, and half are based in the owner’s home. They are largely financed by the owner’s personal savings or traditional debt. And guess what? Ten thousand of those are located in Spokane.
You’re certainly not alone in your endeavors, but with only half of micro businesses surviving more than five years, you may feel like you’re fighting an uphill battle. Here are some resources to help you move forward with confidence and support.
If you’re an expert in your field but struggle to run a business, I recommend you check out the resources provided by the Small Business Administration. On their website you’ll find answers to any questions you have about starting and growing your business. Plus, free training and links to other resources. It’s a goldmine of information I wish I had known about twenty years ago.
I spent thousands of dollars on expert advice to learn how to structure and grow my business and later found out I could have received most of that help for free from mentors at our local chapter of SCORE. They have mentors, workshops, and resources for small businesses right here in Spokane. And, if you’re a seasoned business owner, you can give back to the community by volunteering to be a mentor or teach a class.
One of the challenges many super small businesses face is getting funding to start or grow their business. It’s hard to grow your business when you’re relying on your own savings or working another job to fund your business efforts.
Most lenders don’t want to deal with small loans, especially when the business owner has little to no assets or capital. The SBA offers some micro loans (under fifty thousand dollars). There are other funding resources listed on their website as well.
I used no interest (for six to twelve months) credit cards and Paypal Credit for my startup costs, as well as reinvested revenue from my business. This meant I didn’t pay myself for a long time. I only recommend doing this if you’re confident you can pay off the credit within the no interest period, because the interest rates afterward are astronomical. It would be better to get a personal loan or microloan with a lower interest rate than to risk damaging your credit score and paying such high interest rates.
The federal government contracts with small businesses for thousands of jobs, and these can be lucrative. There are specific requirements and the application process for anything related to the government is complicated, but it’s worth looking into.
There are specific federal contracting programs for small, disadvantaged businesses and woman-owned businesses that have specific requirements and certifications to qualify.
I started my business as a freelancer working from home, which was isolating, especially since we moved a lot and I didn’t know many people. When I finally got out of the house and into the community, my business started to take off.
You won’t succeed if nobody knows you exist. Here are a few organizations you can check out to find the right fit for you. Some are designed specifically for business networking, others are service-oriented organizations that are great for meeting people and making a difference in the world at the same time.
- National Association of Women Business Owners
- Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce
- Greater Spokane Incorporated
- Rotary Club
- Executive Women International
Also, search for organizations with local chapters specific to your industry or the industry of your target audience. Construction, communications, dentistry, whatever. There are organizations for practically everything!
Spokane has an impressive business center that rivals those of bigger cities. Not only are there several resources for doing market research, using free software and taking or hosting classes, but they have one-on-one help from an expert business consultant and partnerships with Startup Spokane. Take advantage of this amazing resource we have for small businesses in Spokane.
Startup Spokane is an organization of Greater Spokane Incorporated and provides resources for startup businesses in the region. They offer classes, mentors and coworking space. They partner with the Spokane Library and SCORE.
For years I searched for an office space I could afford. As a micro business, even a five hundred dollar rent wasn’t doable for me. Thank goodness others had the same problem and invented coworking space! There are several in the area to choose from. Here’s a partial list, pulled from Startup Spokane.
304 W. Pacific Ave., Suite 210
Spokane, WA 99201
Editor’s note: If you sign up with Fellow Coworking, please let them know Trending Northwest sent you!
518 W. Riverside
Spokane, WA 99201
23505 E. Appleway Ave., Suite 200
Liberty Lake WA 99019
25 W. Main Ave. – 3rd Floor
Spokane, WA 99201
2818 N. Sullivan Rd., Suite 100
Spokane, WA 99216
Spokane Public Library – Coming Spring, 2022!
That wraps up my free and low cost business resources in the Spokane area. What would you add to the list?
Wishing you success,
Tanya Goodall Smith
Tanya Goodall Smith
Tanya Goodall Smith is a branding expert, founder of WorkStory Creative, and a certified personal branding strategist for Brand Builder’s Group. She’s worked with hundreds of international brands and micro-businesses to develop and improve their brand assets. She served on the board of the National Association of Women Business Owners and was a finalist in the Maria Sharapova Women’s Entrepreneur program. She has a degree in Visual Communications from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and her expertise has been featured in dozens of leading industry publications and podcasts around the globe. Learn more at workstorycreative.com.