Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nuts and Bolts

Hopefully you had an opportunity yesterday to read some stories about men and women who have successfully started their own micro-businesses.  If not, scroll down to read Wednesday's post.

I thought that now would be a good time to put some nuts and bolts to some of those personal stories by answering the questions, "what is micro-business" and "why is it necessary?"  Tomorrow we'll dig into why it could be a great fit for women in today's economic times.

So, what exactly is micro-business?  Well, it's smaller than small business.  Micro-businesses are tiny--usually employing 1-5 people.  They commonly operate out of the home, and they often provide goods and services for the local community (although they don't have to).  Because they are so small, they tend to be flexible, require little start-up capital, and generally fly under the radar.

If they fly under the radar, you might ask, why are micro-businesses important?  Well, I'm sure you are all familiar with the growing "big-box-ification" trend in our local towns.  You know--where goods and services are increasing provided to us by giant chain stores and franchises.  This trend has provided us with great one-stop-shops, low prices, and convenience.  But it has also created some negative consequences in our local economies, like loss of competition, lower quality goods, and impersonal service.  

Not to oversimplify, but it kind of reminds me of high school.  The big-box businesses are glamorous, like the prom king and queen.  They can throw their weight around, influencing the entire culture.  And they are so popular--city governments throw money at them to woe them into town (aka development incentives).  In contrast, smaller businesses (most of them locally owned) are left in the wake of the popular kids.  Though they may have great creativity, ingenuity, and high quality, they just aren't as cool.  And eventually they get crowded out.

What happens?  Well, many of the things we are witnessing today.  Our jobs are not as stable because global economic forces can put the squeeze on large corporations, sometimes squeezing us out of work (think outsourcing).  Small-time entrepreneurs have a challenging time competing, and often go out of business trying.  And the popular "kids" call all the shots--No money for local healthcare?  Too bad.  Don't want to commute an hour there and back?  Oh well--they'll find someone else who will.  All the decisions are made in far-away, fancy boardrooms, and we have little say in them.

This is not to say that big-box businesses are all bad.  They aren't.  In fact, in a lot of cases, they provide an inspiring example of the American Dream.  But, they need some competition, and we need an alternative.  You know the old adage, "don't put your eggs all in one basket"?  Well, we shouldn't put all of our dollars into big-box businesses.  As it is in the stock market, a little diversity can go a long way.

So, what does this have to do with stay-at-home moms, housewives, and young working women?  Well, we'll get more into that tomorrow, but let's just say that we might be the exact population to balance the scales a bit.  Tune in Friday for more!

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