In this land of opportunity, American entrepreneurs are our dreamers and their small businesses the lifeblood of the economy.
As a business startup attorney for more than three decades, I can tell you that most cobble together their life savings and dream of success – even more than money – often working seven days a week.
In 2020, however, so many of their dreams have been crushed by the government shutdown and now by the mindless violence plaguing the country.
It doesn’t take much to realize that most every business was once a small business.
Individuals with a particular talent branch out on their own and take risks. They believe they can bring their product or service to market and stand on their own. That is what it is about for the entrepreneur – building it themselves – standing on their own two feet.
Some do so in their garage, like Bill Hewlett and David Packard, and go on to create giant companies. If they open a restaurant, they sign a restaurant lease, often for five or ten years. Along with their equipment leases, they make a huge commitment, betting on themselves for years to come.
The violence that is occurring across the nation is striking at the heart of small business that has been shut down for months, in response to COVID-19, by the very governments they need now amidst the violence.
In the process, those dreamers are responsible for creating over 60 percent of new jobs in America over the last several decades. They are the engine of the American economy. They are the heartbeat of local towns, the providers of big city services and the creators of the technology of the future.
They are the embodiment of the American dream.
So, it was rather sad when I went to the office of my small business, on a Sunday, to clear out computer systems and the files of startup clients in anticipation of the riots in Walnut Creek, California. Using the Twitter platform to organize, a “peaceful protest” was set to take place in the local “Civic Park” the next day.
After watching the news of the last week, however, I went a day earlier (or so I thought) to safeguard my business equipment. I was wise to do so. The violence urged by horrific, class-warfare commentary in social media, started a day earlier at the upscale Broadway Plaza across from my office. Looters broke into store after store, large and small, while the police stood by almost helpless.
So many of the instigators claimed (literally) that what they are doing is of no matter to the business owner because it is covered by insurance. For most though, there is no such coverage – just more losses.
One concerned client messaged me asking “Where is our government?” I had no good answer, even for my own business, but to tell him that a curfew has now been imposed. Even so, the Ray-Ban store owner could only say, “Look. This is our store. Done. Everything gone.”
Of course, the violence that is occurring up and down the State of California (to the rudderless silence of Governor Gavin Newsom as of this writing) and across the nation is striking at the heart of small business that has been shut down for months, in response to COVID-19, by the very governments they need now amidst the violence.
Worse yet, even though we need small business to lead our recovery, many government leaders and much of the media ignores their plight.
Oh, they cover the looters, often with a degree of sympathy. They also wax poetic about how we are all in this together with respect to COVID-19.
But for so many of the small business owners, the threat to the survival of their business, caused by the pandemic shutdown, the restrictions on their reopening, and now looting, is more than real.
As they lose their restaurant (as much as 30 percent won’t reopen in California) or their car dealership or their family farm, they will lose much of their life savings. If they are forced into bankruptcy, it will likely be years before they can start again, if ever.
That is what is at stake in these times. The actions of others, including government officials, are breaking the back of the very people we need to restart America.
Even so, if history is our guide, in the coming weeks and months, regardless of these trials, they will get up, dust themselves off, and will take a risk again.
As they do, their governments need to match the indomitable spirit of these entrepreneurs if they want America to once again be the land of opportunity.
Tom Del Beccaro is an author, speaker and former chairman of the California Republican Party. His most recent book is "The Divided Era: How We Got Here and the Keys to America's Reconciliation" (Greenleaf Book Group Press, May 26, 2015).