Laurel business owner Jamal Lee was part of a group of small business owners that met with President Barack Obama at the White House Friday.
Laurel business owner Jamal Lee was part of a group of small business owners that met with President Barack Obama at the White House Friday. (2011 photo by Nate Pesce)

As owner of the Laurel production company Breasia Studios, Jamal Lee has worked with award-winning musicians, large corporations and major film studios. On Friday, he met with another notable client: President Barack Obama.

Lee was one of nine small business owners from across the country that met with Obama to discuss the economic impact of the federal government shutdown. According to a White House press release, the meeting was also attended by Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Jeanne Hulit, Acting Administrator for the Small Business Administration.


"The meeting was exceptional." Lee said. "I believe [Obama's] doing everything he can to resolve these issues."

Lee, who specializes in audiovisual event production, has taken on a leadership role among small business advocates, serving on the network council for the organization Small Business Majority and working with Maryland's Health Care for All coalition to assist with state health care reform.

"It just happened to become a passion of mine to let my story be known," said Lee, who founded Breasia Studios in 2005.

Breasia's business has been directly affected by the shutdown, Lee said. The company was in the process of finalizing an agreement to work with the Smithsonian Institution, but after the federal government shutdown closed all Smithsonian museums, the deal fell through.

"They pulled the rug up from underneath of us," he said.

Lee said working in Laurel and interacting with the city's federal employees has allowed him to further understand the effects of the shutdown.

"As Americans we're just kind of tired of the battle," he said. "The money that's being spent to fight health care reform, we could be using [it] to help Americans build jobs or help another small business like my own to do greater things."

During Friday's meeting, Obama updated the small business owners on his recent conversations with the House of Representatives and the Senate. Lee said he believes progress is being made with negotiations to reopen the federal government, and that it is important to recognize that both Republicans and Democrats are hurting as the shutdown continues.     

Over the summer, Lee collaborated with the Laurel Department of Parks and Recreation to stage the first Laurel Youth Music Showcase, an open mic series for local children and teenagers. Lee said he brings the same amount of enthusiasm to his work as a small business leader, and that he is committed to representing the interests of small businesses amidst the challenges of the shutdown.

"I've been doing things in Laurel to try and bring some togetherness with the young people," he said, "and now we're trying to do it on a much larger front."