Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Carroll Business Path: Small businesses are everywhere

Last month, a colleague asked me to define a small business, and I went straight to the almost universal definition used by the U.S. Small Business Administration, which is "one that is independently owned and operated, is organized for profit, and is not dominant in its field. Depending on the industry, size standard eligibility is based on the average number of employees for the preceding twelve months or on sales volume averaged over a three-year period."

Depending on the type of business, whether manufacturing, wholesaling, services, retail or agriculture, the SBA confines these statistics to a maximum number of employees ranging from 100 to 1,500, and the maximum annual receipts ranging from $500,000 to $21.5 million.

Using this definition, there are literally hundreds of small businesses in Carroll County. Where are they?

Main streets and malls: Local restaurants and retail establishments, with the exception of some larger companies like Dick's Sporting Goods, Wal-Mart and Michaels, are small businesses. Even franchised establishments such as McDonald's, Rita's or Burger King are, in reality, owned privately by small business owners who have the same sorts of challenges as the hair salon or dentist's office on Main Street.

Farming areas, markets and fairs: Carroll County is still very rural in comparison to other counties in the state, and it's likely you will drive past several farming businesses on your way to and from work each day. A small business in the agricultural community can be a family farm or a vineyard, a dairy or a bull semen enterprise, a mushroom farm or a sheep creamery. The farmers markets and fairs in cities and towns across the county, and special fairs such as the Flower & Jazz Festival, are full of small business owners selling their products.

Galleries and arts exhibitions/fairs: There is a thriving arts community in Carroll County, in which the artist/entrepreneur sells everything from oil paintings to photographs, from ceramics to ironwork, from jewelry to afghans. Fairs such as Art in the Park and the Maryland Wine Festival have scores of small business owners making art their business. Cooperatives like Off Track Art provide space to many artists and business owners, and have at least one studio tour each year.

Your own neighborhood: The most numerous type of small business in Carroll County is the "home-based business." There are many small business owners who work out of their home from a home office or garage. There are scores more who sell products, such as Avon, Pampered Chef and the like, and have no storefront or location other than what they can carry with them to show prospective customers. There are also scores of small businesses that exist solely on an Internet website, accessible from the comfort of their owner's kitchen or family room.

Small businesses provide the backbone of our county's economy, providing thousands of jobs and tax revenue. Please take time to recognize their worth and importance. That's easy here in Carroll County — they're everywhere.