Business, Finance

Celebrating small business

Think globally, spend locally Photo: brockney52 / flickr

May brings spring flowers, and also the annual San Francisco Small Business Week. While National Small Business Week does not begin until June, here in the City where we love our unique neighborhoods and celebrate diversity, we jump the gun with the nation’s largest celebration in honor of our entrepreneurial spirit.

The Small Business Networks’ 29th Annual Awards Gala jumpstarts the festivities, where last year the Marina’s own Vintage 415 (owners of Blue Barn Café, Mamacita, Tipsy Pig and Umami) were feted as a Small Business of the Year. Monday, May 13, is the official kick-off with the Flavors of San Francisco event, featuring restaurants from across the City alongside their neighborhood merchant associations – those tireless volunteers dedicated to enhancing our neighborhood commercial corridors. Throughout the week there are conferences, award ceremonies, and seminars, including more than 40 free business seminars covering everything from technology to marketing and green business. The week ends with sidewalk sales across the City sponsored by the Office of Small Business.

Why the big love fest for small business? Small business is the largest employer in San Francisco, providing more jobs than all large companies combined. Despite the major financial institutions and the growing tech and biotech fields, the majority of employees in San Francisco work for small businesses. From entry-level jobs to high paying service industry jobs, small business is the backbone of our economy.

And more than just jobs – for every dollar spent at a locally owned business, that dollar is recycled through our economy up to three times, meaning more local revenue to provide more city services for San Franciscans. A dollar spent at a big box store is a one-time investment, with a single benefit in taxes to the local infrastructure before it leaves our economy for good.

This year’s Small Business Week theme is “Small Business: Shaping Our Communities,” celebrating how the creativity of goods and services provided by small business reflects the unique makeup of each of our neighborhoods. When we think of the many diverse neighborhoods citywide, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the types of businesses found in each neighborhood. Here in the Marina, we’re known for top-notch restaurants of every ethnicity, unique boutique retailers, and a dynamic social scene!

That’s one reason why the Prop G Formula Retail Ordinance was overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2006, despite well-funded campaigns against the measure. The purpose of Prop G was to preserve the unique character of our neighborhoods. It requires that the Planning Commission conduct a hearing in order to grant a use permit for large retailers based on a variety of criteria, especially the existing mix of retailers in the neighborhood. That’s not only important for keeping our neighborhoods from becoming a homogenous shopping mall of chain stores and restaurants, it’s to help level the playing field for small business owners – its not about limiting competition. Most of the stores in neighborhood commercial districts are under 1,000 square feet, and with less room for inventory, small businesses can’t compete with big box retailers who can afford larger spaces and have the support of multiple locations, massive warehouses, and a cost-saving supply chain. And those small spaces actually demand a much higher rent per square foot than large spaces, yet another economy of scale for big business. Prop G simply allows neighborhoods to decide how they want their commercial district to grow and for small business to continue to shape our community.

So once again friends and neighbors, its time to think globally, but shop locally, and support small business, especially while we celebrate San Francisco Small Business Week, May 13 – 18. Stop in your favorite locally owned salons, stores, and restaurants this month and let them know you appreciate what they do to make the Marina the best place on earth.

For more information on San Francisco Small Business Week, visit

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