8 Good News Stories About Small Businesses

An illustration of a small business storefront

Small Business Saturday is upon us — and as a small business ourselves, we know how important small businesses are and how hard they work to do good.

We celebrated small businesses in a recent issue of the Goodnewspaper — and we're sharing a few favorite good news stories from this issue online today.

Running a small business isn't easy. Our culture rewards big, winner-take-all businesses.

But small businesses are valuable. By their nature, they have a focus deeper than just profit. And, as you'll read in these stories — and the many more stories like it in The Small Business Edition of the Goodnewspaper — small businesses have been proven to be more generous than large businesses.

You might also like: The best quotes about small businesses

Before we get into this issue's good news stories, we think it might be valuable to share some context on just how many small businesses there are in the United States.

According to an October 2020 report from the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, there are 31.7 million small businesses in the U.S. (compare that to just 20,139 large businesses).

Between 2000 and 2019, new jobs at small businesses accounted for 10.5 million total new jobs in the U.S. — 65.1% of net new jobs — while new jobs for large businesses only accounted for 5.6 million.

Small businesses do good. They're providing more new jobs for people. They're also mission-driven and community-powered. And they're growing, spreading the good they do.

We each have the ability to pay attention to small businesses, find ways to support them, and maybe even share their good news stories.

The Small Business Edition of the Goodnewspaper / Front Cover Illustration by Carra Sykes, Good Good Good's Art Director

Here are some hope-inducing good news stories about small businesses:

The Pandemic Became The Catalyst For Diverse Small Business Growth

Whether motivated by a combination of forced furloughs or layoffs, lockdowns, or an abundance of free time to dive into new side hustles, the COVID-19 pandemic became the unintentional catalyst for American entrepreneurs to start new small businesses in record numbers. 

According to the United States Census Bureau, more than 4.4 million new businesses were created during 2020 — the highest total on record. 

For reference, that’s a 24.3% increase from 2019 and 51% higher than the 2010-19 average. In January 2021 alone, half a million new businesses were welcomed into the market.

“We almost never see this sort of boom in a recession,” Luke Pardue, an economist at Gusto, a payroll and benefits platform for small businesses, told CNBC

Interestingly, a 2021 survey conducted by Gusto, showed that the majority of these new businesses were overwhelmingly created by women and people of color.; citing that in 2020, 11% of new business owners were Black or African American (that’s compared to 3% in previous years) and 49% were women (compared to 27% pre-COVID). 

“This is not a coincidence,” said Pardue. “Women and people of color were those who bore the brunt of the recession last year.” 

With so many of these new small business owners starting out of necessity, the data paints a clear picture: droves of hopeful and resilient entrepreneurs have transformed their pandemic-induced hurdles into creative opportunities.

Their work is far from over, though. Young, small businesses have long been considered the backbones of economic growth and rely on loyal consumer support. So whether you’re in the market for something as small as a mug or something as large as a custom furniture piece, we can actively choose to shop local and small to keep these businesses alive and thriving.

This Restaurant Run Out Of A Bedroom Is Taking Brooklyn By Storm

La Tropikitchen first began as a passion project for Stephanie Bonnin, a Colombian woman based in Bushwick, who would host traditional Caribbean dinners for friends in her living room.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City, Bonnin knew she would have to get creative if she wanted her labor of love to continue. 

And so La Tropikitchen was born: operated out of her apartment and served through her bedroom window, Bonnin transports everyone to her native Barranquilla with just a bite.

It didn’t take long for the neighborhood to respond —Bonnin told the VICE's cooking channel Munchies that the first week alone, they had 40 customers. Then 50.

By the time they sat down for conversation with Munchies, they had as many as 80 or 90 people stopping by her bedroom window for take-out. 

“She is the epitome of a bold and enterprising Barranquilla woman,” said a local patron to Munchies about Bonnin. To Bonnin, it was simply a reflex.

“If you ask me, being in a tough spot kind of triggers something in our brains,” she said. “We have the very basic and primitive instinct of survival.” But it wasn’t simply about making ends meet either.

For Bonnin, it was also about educating others on the culinary traditions of Colombia. Food, she says, is political. It’s cultural.

“My food tastes like tradition,” she told Munchies, “I cook like a grandma, to tell you the truth.” 

She makes it a point to pay her respects to the indigenous women who mentor her culinary skills nearly every chance she gets, happy to give credit where credit is due. 

Bonnin’s journey is one of success in the face of relentless tenacity. A cultural project born out of her bedroom window led to her acceptance at the Basque Culinary Center, a lifelong dream of her’s.

Nowadays Bonnin splits her time between Brooklyn and the Catskills, where she has taken to sharing traditional Colombian cuisine out of her very own food truck.

Small Businesses Are Finding An Unlikely Ally In Local Street Fairs

Illustration by Carra Sykes for the Goodnewspaper

There has always seemed to be a “conventional” way to starting up your own business; you find a location for a brick and mortar store, you take out a business loan, you wait to see whether the business survives its first year.

Yet this route is notorious for shutting out minority small business owners and women for a number of reasons, such as lower net worth and assets.

These obstacles have led small business owners to be more innovative in their start-up measures — the most surprising of which is utilizing local flea markets as incubators. 

In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, flea markets (which are traditionally held in outdoor open spaces) are the perfect environment to launch and/or sustain a business.

A report by Insider claims that “80% of global retail companies that have opened a pop-up store said ‘it was successful’,” showing that non-traditional shopping spaces, like flea markets or bazaars, can be expected to stay. 

Another advantage to using flea markets is their ability to closely gauge community trends.

“Our philosophy has always been that the market will always tell us what works,” Amy Abrams, founder of Artists & Fleas in Brooklyn, New York, said to Inc

For example, vintage clothing was commonly sold at flea markets long before it became a mainstream practice to go thrifting.

“A flea market is one of the best places in the world to see how people respond to your stuff. We've seen hundreds of people go on to use this as a platform to do what they really want to do,” Abrams said.

All that to say, flea markets and local street fairs are a great opportunity to support small businesses. 

This Business Had A Day Of Kindness For Employees’ Mental Health

“Come as Strangers, Leave as Friends” reads Apt Cape Cod’s website — a farm-to-table restaurant in Brewster, Massachusetts that garnered national attention when they decided to close for an afternoon in order to give their employees a paid “day of kindness.” 

In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, this was not a decision made easily. Yet, after a summer of abuse by local patrons drove their young staff to tears, it felt inevitable.

Co-owner Brandi Felt Castellano told the New York Times, “I never thought it would become this” in light of the support they received at the beginning of the pandemic. 

These challenges should have been met with empathy. Unfortunately, some choose to answer with aggression — this is often the case when we’re encountered with a world that is different to when we last left it (after all, aggression is just a fear response).

But so many others decided to choose kindness. 

Felt Castellano told the New York Times that the restaurant received a lot of support and encouragement, noting that one of their regulars dropped off a gift card for the staff to use at a local ice cream shop. A parasail and jet ski business the next town over also offered them a day on the lake for free.

This “day of kindness” is just a symptom of a larger movement; the Rhode Island Hospitality Association launched a “Please Be Kind” campaign meant to promote patron empathy and provide mental health resources for service industry employees.

In the United Kingdom a restaurant curator, in partnership with several other businesses and endorsed by celebrity chefs, launched a #BeKindtoHospitality campaign similar to RIHA’s. 

Despite all the ways this pandemic has kept us apart, there are so many among us who insist on coming together and supporting their community through these unnavigable times.

A small act of kindness paid forward can lead to a revolution in an industry — and it could start on your own main street.

Meet The Woman Helping Small Businesses Come Out On Top

Natalie Madeira Cofield / Illustration by Carra Sykes for the Goodnewspaper

Natalie Madeira Cofield made history on March 1, 2021 when she became the first Black woman to be appointed Assistant Administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership (OWBO) at the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

In this position, Cofield oversees 136 centers which make up the Women’s Business Center (WBC) national network, according to the SBA’s press release.

It’s no surprise Cofield was chosen; the Howard University alum’s resume includes serving as the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of Urban Co-Lab, as well as the founding of Walker's Legacy (a “global platform for the professional and entrepreneurial multicultural woman”).

Cofield’s appointment to this position marks a step in the right direction for the Biden administration, who have vowed to rebuild American businesses in a more equitable manner.

“Black women comprise nearly 60 percent of all Black-owned firms and 40 percent of all women-of-color led firms. Because of this, I believe that any national conversation or effort designed to support women business owners must include Black women,” Cofield said in a conversation with Forbes.

“In my role, I aim to be a voice for all women entrepreneurs, by ensuring that the voices of those often overlooked communities are raised.”

Cofield has certainly hit the ground running. Currently, she is managing and distributing a $70 million funding portfolio that includes funds to run the centers and provide additional resources during the pandemic.

$600,000 of those funds were released in September for the expansion of support centers in Puerto Rico, Tulsa, OK, and Rochester, NY.

Cofield is an inspiration to all those she encounters. “To know Natalie is to understand her focus and vision, as well as her brilliant combination of business and economic expertise,” said former colleague Ron Busby Sr., President & CEO, US Black Chambers, Inc.

We can’t wait to see the good work the SBA will do under her leadership.

This Former Lawyer Is Now Working To Bring Chocolate And Care To Communities Across The World

Shawn Askinosie / Photo courtesy of Shawn Askinosie

After Shawn Askinosie quit his successful law practice, he fell in love with chocolate. 

Shawn decided to try cooking and baking after his leave. He used his savings and a loan to buy a building and purchased different chocolate-making equipment — and so Askinosie Chocolate (a bean-to-bar chocolate company) was born.

Shawn then traveled to places like Ecuador, Tanzania, the Philippines, and the Amazon to build relationships with farmers.

He made a deal with them that — as he started making profit from his business — these farmers would receive a share.

Shawn has continued to keep his promise and has afforded these farmers 48% more revenue, according to Forbes.

On Askinosie Chocolate’s website, it states that ‘Askinosie Chocolate was born committed to fairness, sustainability, minimal environmental impact, and community enhancement.’

He has teamed up with a collection of teachers, the principal, and parents, to create a sustainable lunch program which addresses malnutrition in students.

“I believe that we can really have a deeper appreciation and gratitude for those deep moments of joy that are made possible from the bottom of the valley,” Shawn told the Sounds Good podcast. “Or as I like to say, from our sorrow; from our broken heart.”

This Black-Owned Small Business Is Feeding Their Community

Illustration by Carra Sykes for the Goodnewspaper

Niquenya Collins, the executive chef and owner of Cocoa Chili in Chicago, is putting soul back in soul food, one mouthful
at a time. 

Collins told the Chicago Tribune that her menu boasts a full range of cuisine from the African diaspora. “That means jerk chicken, Senegalese poulet yassa, and macaroni and cheese. I wanted to do a big arc from the United States around to Africa on the first go.”

Growing up, as the eldest of thirty cousins, Collins often found herself in the kitchen with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother learning tricks of the trade.

“In terms of what the normal African American family would eat, we’ve always been very experimental,” she told the Chicago Tribune.

“I have early memories of my grandmother making things like chop suey, which is not something that typically you’d have outside of a restaurant, especially back then, and not in a Black family.”

Mindful of the help she’s received from the community, Collins has given away more than 1,500 free meals to community members in need through their #FeedTheCommunity initiative, which garnered them attention and support from the Chicago Bears.

This is especially important during COVID-19, which has devastated many communities and left many folks in need of a hot meal and support.

Collins’ initiative is a fantastic way to show empathy to those struggling and turn her business from a labor of love into something that supports the people who supported her. 

Collins is an inspiration both within and outside of her local community, raising a business from the ground up in the midst of a pandemic. We can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

How Two Female Chemists Are Working To Change The World Of Skincare

Victoria Fu & Gloria Lu met while working at an international beauty company.

But rather than climbing the corporate ladder, they decided to take their respective experience in the beauty and chemistry world to start a small business that actually fills the gaps in the industry they both love. 

Now, they’re the founders of Chemist Confessions — a women of color-owned skincare company.

Chemist Confessions first began as a skincare blog where Gloria and Victoria shared their science-focused opinions on skincare and their frustrations with the beauty industry.

As chemists by profession, Gloria and Victoria quickly developed a following for their blog and decided to put their opinions into practice. 

Chemist Confessions now aims to operate as both an educational platform and a skincare line, where customers can learn about the ingredients which work best for their skin and make purchases in accordance.

As explained on their website, Gloria and Victoria aim to ‘empower the consumers with approachable science education to help create order in the skincare space by making skin science fun and approachable for all.’

Using their education in chemistry as a mechanism to create the most effective skincare, Gloria and Victoria have curated a skincare line where all skin types can find products that work for them. 

While they now run a successful skincare line, their blog is still a large facet of their uniqueness as a team of chemists.

They’ve also written a book titled Skincare Decoded, where readers can understand the fundamentals of products like cleaners, moisturizers, and sunscreens.

Gloria and Victoria are setting examples as female founders who broke away from their traditional careers to make the change they want to see in the world — and that’s good for all of us.

These stories were published in The Small Business Edition of the Goodnewspaper in November 2021. (This issue was supported by PLANOLY. Thank you PLANOLY!)

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