About This Venture

Welcome to washingtonpost.com's Small Business blog. Feel free to contact me at smallbusiness@washingtonpost.com.

This feature will offer an inside look at small businesses and their challenges and opportunities. I will talk to experts who can help guide small businesses (from start-ups to well-established) navigate today's digital and physical marketplaces.

After talking to scores of small business owners in preparing to start this blog, it seems the main reasons people choose to set up shop -- either online or in the physical world -- involve more flexibility in schedules, greater independence and a need to share great ideas and passions with the world.

The United States has about 6 million small employers, with about 90 percent of them employing fewer than 20 people. At any given time, about 7 percent of the U.S. population is in the process of starting a small business, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

Most entrepreneurs come out of the arts and sciences and have been educators, engineers, inventors, musicians or practitioners like doctors. They aren't necessarily equipped with MBAs and often have to turn to others for business know-how, say small business experts.

An ongoing series of "how do I" pieces in this space will aim to help you find the lawyer, accountant or realtor that's best for you. And partly thanks to my location in the Washington area, I'll be stopping by Capitol Hill frequently to keep you abreast of what lawmakers are up to that might affect you.

Most entrepreneurs, by definition, are risk takers. Maybe you took that step some time ago and have been working to keep your business afloat, or maybe you have a wildly successful story to tell. Or you might be thinking that it's time to ditch "working for the man" to be your own boss.

I've been both an editor and a reporter for more than 15 years and have covered a wide range of issues, including business of all sizes, technology, politics, entertainment, education and the environment. I've also worked for businesses of all sizes, and not just in media. Among the many part-time jobs at small businesses that helped me fuel other passions, I worked as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant, punched a cash register and bagged groceries in a boutique grocery store, answered phones in a telecommunications consultancy and worked as a secretary for a small firm on a large construction site.

I hope readers will offer comments and suggestions to encourage a forum of ideas that can be shared and built upon. The small business community is disparate, busy and often on the road, but you'll likely find that many of you face similar challenges no matter how unique you are.

Among the highlights of this blog's inaugural week, we'll take a look at a small firm that struggled with finding the right location, offer help in determining whether your product or idea should be patented, and check in with the head of the Small Business Administration.

-- Sharon McLoone

By Sharon McLoone |  July 9, 2007; 11:33 AM ET
Next: An Artsy Approach to Finding the Sweet Spot

Comments

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Ms. McLoone, this blog is a great idea and we'll be following it closely, linking it to our website, www.vdba.virginia.gov

Posted by: Virginia Department of Business Assistance | July 10, 2007 7:52 AM

I think you should do an in-depth look of how difficult it can be to deal with the electric and gas utilities. There is no shortage of tales of woe. There is little oversight from the perspective of the independent small business owner of these two behemoths.

Posted by: Ken | July 10, 2007 5:16 PM

I'll challenge you to explore how the federal gov't attempts to support small business, but instead the policies always seem to help out the bigger competitors.

Posted by: Bob Piersma | July 10, 2007 10:43 PM

Sharon,

If you are looking for information about furniture or general small business info, I own Authentically Amish Fine Furnishings in Alexandria and would be happy to be a resource for you.

Thanks.

Posted by: Chris St Pierre | July 11, 2007 4:57 PM

Small independent businesses are a huge percentage of business in America - the last US Census figures report 20 million of the 27 million businesses in the US are "personal business" - business without a payroll. At any given time, though, many of them are either going into or out of business, so as you pointed out, they look to others facing the same challenges and opportunities for education, support and advice.

I'd like to see you write about how niche social networks aimed at connecting independent business people are helping bootstrapping business people build their businesses. I'm the co-founder of one such vibrant network, Biznik.com, started in Seattle in 2005, which now has more than 4,000 members in 70 countries. And I know there are many more. How do they compare?

I'll be following this blog with great interest.

Posted by: Dan McComb | July 13, 2007 3:11 PM

Good day Ms. McLoone,
I would like to invite you to be a guest on the radio show that I produce "Smart Business radio". Saturday mornings at 9am. WFED 1050am. We are soon moving into national and satellite syndication. Guest and topics include: CEO profiles, small business owner profiles, Venture capitalist, M and A experts, SBA directors. I think you would make an interesting guest.

We would also welcome any of your readers to write or call in to tell us about their business, or aspirations. We work closely with Washington Post radio (our neighbors across the hall). And you can count on us giving your blog a promotional mention.

Please contact me directly at jason@smartbizepg.com
http://wtop.com/?sid=1035489&nid=410

Posted by: Jason Anthony | July 19, 2007 8:38 AM

Good day Ms. McLoone,
I would like to invite you to be a guest on the radio show that I produce "Smart Business radio". Saturday mornings at 9am. WFED 1050am. We are soon moving into national and satellite syndication. Guest and topics include: CEO profiles, small business owner profiles, Venture capitalist, M and A experts, SBA directors. I think you would make an interesting guest.

We would also welcome any of your readers to write or call in to tell us about their business, or aspirations. We work closely with Washington Post radio (our neighbors across the hall). And you can count on us giving your blog a promotional mention.

Please contact me directly at jason@smartbizepg.com
http://wtop.com/?sid=1035489&nid=410

Posted by: Jason Anthony | July 19, 2007 8:45 AM

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