Diane Hardy quickly learned that government has great influence over the small business environment when she opened Nothing Bundt Cakes a few years ago.
She was then surprised at how little representation small business owners had during the height of the pandemic when they had to follow local and state mandates.
Hardy now hopes the Mom and Pop Alliance will become the voice of South Carolina small business owners in the Statehouse.
“We want to advocate for our small businesses down in Columbia to be their voice,” said Hardy, director and founder of the organization. “And to give them a stronger voice than they have now.”
According to the Small Business Administration’s 2020 small business profile, South Carolina’s nearly 432,000 small businesses make a majority of the state’s businesses and employ almost 44% of the state’s workers.
Despite such an important role in the state’s economy, Hardy said small business owners have been underrepresented.
While local chambers often help local entrepreneurs, Hardy said statewide business organizations have gravitated toward bigger businesses and may not prioritize small business owners. However, she does hope to work with other statewide organizations, such as the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce, on certain issues in the future.
Frank Knapp, president and CEO of the small business chamber, expressed the same sentiment and told The Greenville News that he hopes they can work together on common issues.
The alliance will focus on three goals: education, advocacy and communication between small businesses and officials.
Lucas Marchant, who owns a law firm in Greenville, believes greater representation of small business owners in the legislative process will strengthen the state’s economy.
“I hope that small business owners can feel like that they are a part of the policy process in our state and that they are being heard,” Marchant said in an email. “Diane Hardy and the Mom and Pop alliance aim to make sure our voices are heard.”
The alliance is currently working on scheduling roundtable events to allow any small business owner to talk with legislators and discuss current or future measures that can help small businesses. They hope to finalize details of these roundtables soon.
“We will be hearing from small business owners and about the problems that they face,” state Rep. Patrick Haddon said. “This will give us legislators the information to write legislation that will help ease the problems that they face from the government.”
The Mom and Pop Alliance will survey its members regularly to share the community’s thoughts to state officials and keep members updated with newsletters. Members will also have access to IDEA-SC.org, a platform to share ideas privately.
Hardy hopes to work on issues such as healthcare, decreasing regulations and income taxes, but the surveys will tell Hardy and the alliance what small business owners need.
“It’s not about what Diane wants, it’s about what the members want,” Hardy said.
The new organization launched last year and was formerly announced last week at a press conference at Stax Original’s, a family-owned restaurant that’s been in Greenville for decades.
Since its formation last year, the organization has reached out to legislators and held events for entrepreneurs to inform them of the Mom and Pop Alliance. They have more than 100 members so far.
The organization has received support from many local and state officials, including state Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Greenville County Sheriff Hobart Lewis, Greenville County Councilmembers Chris Harrison and Lynn Ballard, state Reps. Patrick Haddon, Bobby Cox, Mike Burns, Ashley Trantham and Stewart Jones, and state Sen. Rex Rice.
Cox said many small business owners are often too busy running their business and taking care of their families to keep up with new regulations and to advocate for themselves.
That’s a point that Joey Russo, co-owner of Greenville Rubber and Gasket, agreed with.
Russo will soon join the Mom and Pop Alliance as a member but said he’s already learned from the organization about the state’s tax environment and hopes that is an issue that the organization can work on.