Meet the Council: Q&A with John Arensmeyer

In our “Meet the Council” series, hear directly from the our Stewards and Allies why they are committed to making business fairer, more inclusive, and more sustainable.

John Arensmeyer is the founder and CEO of Small Business Majority, a national small business advocacy organization founded and run by small business owners to solve the biggest problems facing small businesses today and ensure small businesses’ success as a way to rebuild the economy.

Tell us about the work of Small Business Majority and how this aligns with the Council’s mission to advance a more inclusive capitalism.

Small Business Majority is a national small business organization that empowers America’s diverse entrepreneurs to build a thriving and equitable economy. We engage our network of more than 85,000 small businesses and 1,500 business and partner organizations to advocate for pro-entrepreneurship policy solutions, and we deliver timely resources to small businesses to help them start and grow sustainable businesses.

The Council’s mission aligns perfectly with ours—to create a more inclusive, sustainable economy that works for everyone. Strengthening small businesses, particularly those that have been overlooked or underserved, is essential to promoting a more equitable economy.

What policies do you believe are most critical to enabling a more inclusive form of capitalism in the U.S.?

Inclusive capitalism requires that everyone in our economic system operate on a level playing field. We need policies that promote economic democracy and enable the smallest businesses in our most vulnerable communities to most effectively compete. These policies include access to responsible capital (including incentives for lenders to change the way they assess risk), access to business and technical resources, access to quality essential benefits – such as healthcare, paid leave, childcare, and retirement savings – and an equitable playing field with regard to contractual relationships, technology platforms, and government programs.

Tell us about venturize.org and why Small Business Majority created the platform.

Small Business Majority manages Venturize.org, a free online resource hub for small business owners that need help accessing tools and information to sustain and grow their businesses. Venturize offers unbiased education and resources to help bolster businesses and empower them to make informed financing decisions. Our mission with Venturize is simple — to help entrepreneurs navigate critical resources and capital necessary to make their businesses more resilient now and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many people view ESG as the domain of large corporations. What resources do small businesses need to support their efforts on inclusivity and sustainability?

Small businesses, particularly those owned by people of color and women, need access to responsible credit and venture capital as well as access to quality technical assistance to help them navigate a complex economic environment. This includes help preparing them to apply for loans and seek venture investments, along with tools for business planning, marketing strategies, and human resources.

What concerns you most about our economic and policy outlook in the next five years?

The pandemic laid bare serious structural inequalities in our economic system, particularly for small businesses. These include unequal access to capital, resource shortages, vast discrepancies in our care economy, and an exacerbation of the gap between small businesses and large monopolistic enterprises. The result has been serious struggles for many small businesses, particularly those run by people of color, with many enterprises in vulnerable communities simply shutting down. The concern is that as the pandemic recedes, we will be content to revert back to the old ways of doing business while failing to seize the moment and push for lasting structural change.

What gives you hope?

The silver lining for small businesses during the past 20 months is that their needs and their struggles have been pushed to the forefront of people’s consciousness. On top of that, while many businesses unfortunately have shut down, even more new enterprises have been formed as people reassess their employment options. Moreover, we are seeing a greater awareness of the gap between small businesses and monopolistic corporations, along with renewed efforts to address systemic racial inequities. We must harness this greater awareness and new business formation to promote policies that expand opportunities for the newest, smallest businesses, specifically those run by people of color, women, and those in rural communities. If we can accomplish this and simultaneously do everything we can to level the economic playing field, we can move closer to more inclusive capitalism and a true economic democracy.

What do you most hope to gain from your membership in the Council for Inclusive Capitalism?

We are eager to share ideas and perspectives with the many Council members who are working to address economic inequality in a variety of ways, with all of us unified in our commitment to a truly inclusive economy. We also hope to form alliances with Council members where possible to take meaningful action.

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