“Why Baton Rouge?” An out of town client recently asked me this question. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s a valid ask. Why should they choose a small business in this city – in need of massive infrastructure improvements, litter clean-up on the streets, and a whole faction of people who want to leave?
But, that’s not who Baton Rouge is. Those problems don’t describe the people who make up our city. They definitely don’t define our small business community. We hustle everyday, striving to be engaged, proactive, and thoughtful with local concerns and initiatives.
Small businesses are made of people who show up, give, and get the job done. In the 2016 flood, so many small businesses jumped to help those in need. They gave workers time off to mobilize a volunteer force to aid and rebuild their community. In Baton Rouge, we always come together to get the real work done, even when it’s hard.
As a small business owner, I believe we are meant to lead by example. We need to be involved in community affairs, thoughtful in our decisions, and generous with our dollars and our time. It’s small businesses that drive our city, not government entities. It’s our people that are in the messy, gritty workings of life. They are the ones who get things done. We have a responsibility as small businesses to lead the support for initiatives that encourage economic stability, city unity, and nonprofit success.
Unity is important to every small business. Each day, we work together toward a common goal – to create compelling visual narratives that help our clients. And, we value working together because it provides a sense of strength. With that security, we can work confidently and know that we can rely on each other through difficult projects.
In the same way, we hope to promote unity in Baton Rouge, and that starts with small business leadership. We need to work together as a small business community to create a sense of trust and stability in our local marketplace. That means avoiding decisions that create division, especially when faced with unvalidated assumptions. Instead, our Baton Rouge business leaders can work toward sustainable solutions that engineer unity and growth.
Nonprofit support is one way to accomplish this. They are vital to the lifeblood of a city, and I believe supporting nonprofits is a key way we can express our civic duty. Nonprofits address the gap of services between the private sector and government entities. That’s why we love working with clients like Baton Rouge General, Companion Animal Alliance, and Baton Rouge Area Chamber. The work they do is incredible. These are the things that really improve all of our lives in a tangible way.
Nonprofits get out in their local areas, and they affect change. They make people listen. Our job as small business owners is to support them, to make decisions that benefit their good, and to give generously of our time and our financial support. We want to encourage local initiatives that keep taxes low to enable people to give more and not fear uncertain property tax increases.
It’s an election year in Louisiana, and it seems like every level of government is in limbo. Whatever your political affiliation, it’s hardly ideal to have such uncertainty at the federal level. It doesn’t encourage marketplace security, and that hurts small business confidence. Unpredictability makes people nervous, and we don’t need it. Not on the federal level. Not on the state level. And, we certainly don’t need it in our local government.
Whether it’s racial tension, natural disaster, or bad policy, I believe that small business owners have a responsibility to thoughtfully engage with community affairs. Because we’re so closely integrated into the community of Baton Rouge, pretty much all local policy will affect us in some way. It’s tempting to sit back and say, “It’s not my business,” or “It’s not going to affect me,” or “I’m busy.” But, one day, it will affect you, and it will affect your clients. So, we need to be proactive. We must pay attention and make sure that we aren’t falling prey to a culture of complacency.
There is much we can improve upon in Baton Rouge, but there is more that is good. I believe that my role as a small business owner is to be in the center of that improvement, while working together with other community stakeholders to be proactive, thoughtful, and engaged. No city is perfect, but I believe the grass grows greener where you water it.