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Don't Call My Business Small

by Kirsten Hubbard

Words matter. I'm a writer, so maybe they matter to me a bit more than the average person. Maybe I am overly sensitive. Years ago, I heard a speaker still angry well into adulthood over this derogatory nickname he had been given in elementary school. The name stuck and followed him through high school. He seethed about it every day, for years. Until one day, well into his thirties, he realized the name didn't stick because some bullies called it out. It stuck the moment he, himself, responded to it.

The words we bestow upon ourselves, and the words we consent to respond to, matter. The well-deserved appreciation and concern laid at the closed doors of local businesses has been one of the silver linings of this crisis - this dawning and desperate recognition of the importance of local businesses as economic drivers, as traditional supporters of community efforts, as providers of unique and personal services, and as plain ol' good neighbors. It is a bit like appreciating a spouse or a parent once they become gravely ill. Perhaps, now it is timely to revisit a phrase that I don't consent to respond to: "small business." My business falls, by bureaucratic definition, into this category.

My business is not small. My business feeds the hungry. My business puts books in the hands of children. My business ensures 12-year-old girls halfway across the globe have options outside of marriage to middle-aged men. My business helps build ramps for children to access schools and builds communities who view all children as capable of learning and contributing. My business creates avenues for dance and theater and painting. My business takes care of other local businesses.

My business has been working 16-hour days to support organizations on the front line of the pandemic: innovating new ways of delivering services, ensuring our communities have accurate information, connecting overburdened service organizations with the resources they desperately need.

My business takes care of its people. Not one person has been laid off. We have tried to increase hours for part-timers laid off by their other employers.

My business just paid for my son's first semester of college. He's the first in our immediate family to go.

My business is not small. I don't want to do business with companies who call me small. I can't create environments poised to thinktank massive world-changing solutions with partners who view me as small. I don't consent to being called small. And I won't insult other business owners who regularly work 70-hour weeks, spend Friday nights struggling to figure out taxes and payroll and insurance and all the other ugly realities, who sacrifice and risk-take with their own money instead of with others' money, and who haven't had a "day off" in years.

But, hey, maybe I am just an overly sensitive writer overly attached to words. Call me crazy. Just don't call me small.


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