Small business owners play an integral role in the community
Small businesses are essential to communities and the economy. There are over 24 million small businesses in the country and they employ half of all private sector employees, pay 45 percent of the total U.S. private payroll and have generated more jobs and opportunities than any other business sector.
"They really are the lifeblood of a small town," says Jeff Thomas, owner of Crossroad SIGN in Woodinville. "They keep it going economically and play an important role in the community."
Thomas provides sign and branding services to other small business owners and property managers. He’s in what can be described as the "visibility business" – helping other companies enhance their visibility and presence.
The local man, a longtime Woodinville resident, comments on how he perceives his role as a small business owner.
"It’s not only about selling our products," he explains. "But, it’s about helping others be successful in the community." He adds, "Being actively involved in the community is important for a small business owner. I’m involved in the Chamber of Commerce and various networking groups. And then I sponsor youth athletic and racing teams, the farmers market, and other local events and organizations. Of course, it’s an opportunity for me to get the company’s name out there, but it’s also a chance to help the different groups in the community and to give something back."
Thomas views Woodinville as a great place to live, but he feels that the local government needs to be more accommodating and welcoming to small businesses.
"The people here are great and it’s been a wonderful place to raise our family, but for small business owners, it can be a challenge," he comments. "Woodinville is seen primarily as a tourist destination. But, we need to make it known that we have more to offer. We need to find a way to link the wine and music venues with small businesses. That’s the key."
Over at Norrgard’s Optik, Lisa Norrgard, who owns the optical boutique with her husband Eric, sees her role as a small business owner in much the same way as Thomas.
"Our goal as a business is to help make our customers see and look better," explains Norrgard. "We try to make a difference to the people who come in our door, by assisting them with their concerns." She adds, "Establishing relationships and providing personalized attention and service is important to us. Many of our customers have become friends over the years."
Norrgard and her husband are also actively involved in the community. Their onsite art gallery displays works by local artists and they have held various events to raise money for Children’s Country Home in Woodinville. They provide free adjustments and repairs on glasses for the elderly at nearby retirement centers and deliver glasses free to housebound individuals.
"We like to be a part of the community," comments Norrgard. "We support the organizations and the other businesses here and we advocate shopping locally first." She adds, "It’s a two-way street. We support the community and they in turn support us."