Happy National Small Business Week to all my fellow entrepreneurs!  This week, from June 17 – 21, the entire country recognizes and honors the contributions of small businesses. Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation declaring the first National Small Business Week, and since then, the sitting President has continued the tradition each year.

Small businesses are the economic engine that drives the U.S. economy.  The more than 27 million small firms provide 60 to 80 percent of the net new jobs in our country and more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business.  Yet because of the economic downturn the past several years, this important market segment has struggled significantly.  It’s fitting to have a special week to say thanks to America’s entrepreneurs.

Who will be recognized?

As part of the annual celebration, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) selects a small businessperson of the year from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. This year’s state winners can be found on the National Small Business Week website.  The state winners compete to be named the National Small Business Person of the Year.

That’s how I originally got involved.  My husband was the Missouri Small Business Person of the Year in 1987. We traveled to Washington, D.C. for the national event, and I enjoyed being part of the festivities honoring our country’s entrepreneurs.  Subsequently, I returned to St. Louis and founded Small Business Week of Eastern Missouri, a non-profit organization that continues to produce local activities during small business week in the St. Louis area.

In addition to the business person of the year awards, the SBA also recognizes a host of other small businesses and advocates, including: Small Business Exporter of the Year, Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Entrepreneurial Success, Family-owned Small Business, Veteran Small Business Champion, Financial Services Champion, Women in Business Champion, Minority Small Business Champion, and Home-Based Business Champion.

Events across the nation

Historically, the National Small Business Week festivities have been held in Washington, D.C.; this year, in celebration of the 50th anniversary, events are being held around the country and will culminate in Washington on June 20 – 21. Other cities hosting events include: Seattle, June 17; Dallas, June 18; St. Louis, June 19; and Pittsburgh, June 20.  If you can’t personally attend any of the events, the programs are being streamed live via the National Small Business Week site.

Matchmaking is good for business

Three days of business matchmaking is part of the year’s agenda, too.  Matchmaking allows small businesses the opportunity to have face-to-face meetings with prime contractors and federal agencies to learn about specific contracting and subcontracting opportunities. The first matchmaking event will take place at the Arlington Convention Center in Dallas on June 18 from 12:00 – 3:00 p.m.  Two more sessions are taking place at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C. on June 20 and 21 from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Many local groups, such as the one I launched, host their own activities during small business week.  To find programs in your area, check with your local chamber or media outlets. Also, the national website lists many local and regional events.

How will you participate in this year’s National Small Business Week?

Small Business Week Events Near You:

  • Seattle, June 17
  • Dallas, June 18
  • St. Louis, June 19
  • Pittsburgh, June 20
  • Washington, D.C., June 20-21

Matchmaking Events:

  • Dallas, June 18, 12-3 p.m., Arlington Convention Center
  • Washington, D.C., June 20 & 21, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., Renaissance Hotel

Virtual Participation:

National Small Business Week events will also be streamed live via the National Small Business Week site.

Will you attend a local event or tune into a webcast? Be sure to take a moment to recognize the success of small businesses and the important role they play in our nation’s economy.

 

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.