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The Strength of Small Business Associations

Source: U.S. Small Business Administration

But for all the sweat and hard work that owners of small businesses put in, it’s unfortunate that in some areas, including rural small towns (and in Cambodia, of course) where strength in numbers is even more important, the small business community continues to be disconnected from one another. Enter the role of Small Business Associations (or SBA’s).

Small Business Associations

Educating the public about the important role that small businesses play is ever more important considering their outsized influence in today’s economy. In many places (including, Cambodia), while joining a local chamber of commerce may be one way for businesses to connect, membership fees might be out of the reach for some startup businesses and owners, and therefore a conversational non-starter.  In addition, chambers tend to be on the larger side, and therefore may distract from the more specific issues that smaller business associations can focus on. The same disadvantage might apply to creating a business improvement district (or BID for short) which relies on taxation to provide services and projects within a boundary.

One practical alternative is the creation of small grassroots business associations. Small business associations may be formed around any number of affiliations such as businesses that are located along a certain corridor, minority-owned businesses or an industry-specific trade such as restaurants, or as in the case of Cambodia, garment workers. These groups help organize and unite small business communities’ opinions and ambitions, so they can be clearly and effectively communicated to the government while simultaneously informing and educating the public about the important role that small businesses play in our towns and cities.

A good, basic summary that lays out the steps to forming a small business association can be found here.

In rural small towns, the role that small business associations play may be even more profound as businesses along a certain corridor may be physically located adjacent to one another but still more than “a stone’s throw away” (this is especially true in Cambodia). Thus, the shared affiliations between businesses on a rural street may not be as obvious to the owner’s eyes as businesses that might be located along a city street.

In the case of Salida, CO, (where Community Builders is currently providing technical assistance for improvements along Highway 50), the owners of businesses adjacent to the corridor are currently exploring the possibility of creating a grassroots group. While still in the early stages of the process, the group’s representatives initially conducted research on the existing clubs and organizations in Salida, and discovered that there wasn’t a shortage of organizations in Salida; however, there wasn’t one that represented their voices.  After some preliminary analysis, they saw an opportunity to create a Highway 50 corridor small business association that could effectively communicate their concerns to government as the community moves forward with improvements along the corridor.

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Discussions surrounding the creation of a small business association for businesses located along Highway 50 in Salida came out of the highway improvement technical assistance that Community Builders facilitated.

This goes to show that the connections and impacts that are made possible by small business associations go a long way towards achieving inclusiveness, entrepreneurship, increased economic development opportunities and improved access to business loans and training—qualities that are beneficial to every small business.

Main photo by Dan Smedley on Unsplash

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