Note: This article was originally published in The Overcast.
The headlines are starting to drive a growing fear: we’re in the bust after the boom. The party’s over. The jig is up. It was good while it lasted, but the good times are coming to an end. Sigh.
Are we really going to start feeling sorry for ourselves because the price of oil is down and our governments have spent all the royalties?
Not if I can help it, we aren’t. There’s way too much to be optimistic about, and the beauty of the whole situation is that our destiny is entirely in our own hands.
Yes, that’s right, we have a secret weapon to fend off an economic malaise and it’s called Small Business.
Actually, it goes by many names: startup; local shop; independent operation; entrepreneur. But whatever you call them, our small businesses power our economic engine, and it’s high time we put them on the pedestal they deserve.
Our small businesses employ over half of our working population and we should work to get this percentage higher. Small businesses give our economy resilience by helping us diversify and by driving growth. Because there are so many of them, small businesses give us opportunities to try new things, sharpen our strengths, and even out the ups and downs of market forces.
Speaking of “the market,” you might not think of it but our small businesses also give us a strong, healthy community, all thanks to the nature of local, free-market capitalism. Yes, I said it: capitalism. Stop picturing greedy, cigar-smoking Wall Street fat cats for a second and think about what capitalism really is: a system where the needs of a community (market) are filled by people who can (and want to) fill them.
Local market capitalism can be a beautiful thing because it requires people to decide they want to make a life in this place by doing something that their neighbours value.
At its best, a community that fosters and celebrates small business is made up of happy, productive, prosperous people who help and support each other.
So how can we become that wonderful, capitalist-but-ethical city? Well, for one we can explore our local shops and buy local. Have fun with it! Meet the owner, ask where their products come from, and what their philosophy is.
Beyond that, we need to accept and celebrate the risks inherent in “going small.” Startups thrive on failure, but our community has to embrace that idea and make learning from mistakes a core, shared value.
Finally, City Hall has to become a “small business champion.” I want red tape reduction strategies to help business owners get things done. And let’s make sure we’re doing what we can to bring together (“cluster”) the talent, infrastructure, capital, and networks needed to have a thriving, innovative business community.
Shake off the doom-and-gloom! Our success and economic freedom doesn’t come from thick, black oil; it comes from a deeply rooted, optimistic, and supportive community that celebrates its own. Now doesn’t that sound like the St. John’s you already know and love?
See! We got this.
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