Dive into the fascinating world of micro-businesses and explore their remarkable impact on local economies and communities. Discover how these micro-businesses drive innovation, create employment opportunities, racial equity, and contribute to the overall economic landscape. Our guests Brian Goebel, Managing Director of The Business & Society Institute at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and Mercedes Uzuegbunam, Heart Mercedes Founder share their insights into the stories and strategies behind microbusiness. Join us as we discuss the impact of these small but mighty enterprises, rethink intentionality in our shopping behaviors, and gain a deeper understanding of why small business is truly big.
The Importance of Microbusinesses
Brian Goebel discusses how microbusinesses go beyond economic contributions to influence communities. They tailor products and services to the specific needs of their communities, creating a unique and personalized experience. They add cultural richness to communities. Despite their small size individually, their collective impact is significant. They play a crucial role in creating jobs, both directly and indirectly, and contribute to building wealth within communities. Professor Peter Roberts has additional research on microbusiness impact. Additionally, the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) Bigger Than You Think Report provides helpful insights.
Start:ME: Supporting Microbusinesses
Brian discusses Start:ME, a micro-business accelerator program, operating in underserved communities across metro Atlanta that has served nearly 400 micro-businesses over the last 10 years. The program focuses on supporting businesses to start, grow, and thrive. Follow @StartMeATL on Instagram. Brian and Mercedes also share more about the work of other entrepreneur support organizations in Atlanta including Goodie Nation, Village Micro Fund, The Village Market, Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, and Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI).
Journey to Heart Mercedes
Mercedes Uzuegbunam, Start:ME alum and coordinator discusses her journey to launch Heart Mercedes, a statement jewelry line for the whole family. She discusses how it evolved organically, driven by her passion for art and a desire to give back to the community. She shares how Start:ME played a crucial role in her transition from artist to a business owner and her decision to support other entrepreneurs.
Mercedes emphasizes the importance of authenticity in her brand and how her values show up in her business. She engages the community in “random acts of kindness” such as organizing pop-up art classes in schools, contributing to creative expression in children and enhancing community well-being. Follow @HeartMercedes on Instagram.
Addressing Poverty and Racial Equity
Brian sheds light on how micro-businesses play a role in providing pathways for families to exit poverty, however he cautions that poverty is a systemic issue that entrepreneurship alone cannot solve. Micro-businesses contribute significantly to household income and offer flexibility to entrepreneurs, enabling them to leverage their passions and skills. In reference to economic equity, Brian highlights the racial wealth gap and emphasizes the need for intentional support, ensuring entrepreneurs from underserved communities have access to knowledge, networks, and capital. He also advocates for policy considerations as crucial aspects in creating an equitable environment. Brian highlights several thought leaders and organizations doing great work in the Atlanta area on this topic and references the Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI) along with the Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE) as a great starting point to understand the dynamics of Atlanta.
Reference: The Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI) Building a Beloved Economy
Spending with Intention
Mercedes and Brian highlight the significance of researching where to spend your money, aligning your choices with personal values, and the impact that can create. The idea of "Shop Small, Shop Local" is more than a slogan; it's about investing in the community, creating personal connections, and leaving a positive impact. Mercedes emphasizes the value of leaving a positive legacy through intentional and supportive actions. Brian also underlines the role that companies can play in driving impact through intentional procurement initiatives.
Brian concludes by inviting listeners to get involved by making mindful choices regarding where they shop and how they invest their time. He invites listeners to support micro-businesses through purchases from the Start:ME shopping guide and volunteering as a Start:ME business mentor. He highlights several organizations working towards economic equity and encourages individuals to get informed about challenges and take collective action for a better, more prosperous community.
Thank you to our guests, Brian Goebel and Mercedes Uzuegbunam, for sharing their insights and experiences. Join us in supporting micro-businesses and making intentional choices that positively impact our communities.