I am not much of a television viewer. There is one show I will sit through if I have the time — “America’s Got Talent.”
Are you familiar with it? I watch it not because I’m really interested in being entertained but because I like the stories of regular folks who have a talent, believe in themselves and more importantly have a dream. They pour their hearts out for those judges, the audience and the TV viewers to have that one shot at using the one thing they are passionate about, their talent, to go big.
When I think of small-business owners, it reminds me of that show. Regular people who day in and day out give their all to live the American dream — their own shop. I love the passion of a small-business owner when you ask them, “So what do you do?”
That one small question is the reason I started my business almost 28 years ago. I am fascinated by the stories of business. Stories like Hasu Shah who started with buying one tiny, little rundown motel and worked long hours and years into now owning almost 100 hotels on the East and West coasts. People like my friend, Anne Beiler, who started with one soft pretzel stand and grew it to a franchised business serving pretzels all over the world. Or another friend, Doug Neidich, who started a computer connector company in his garage and grew it to a $40-plus million dollar enterprise.
All three started with an idea and a small dream that blossomed with sweat, long hours and determination.
And my favorite stories, the folks who created a service or product for people who, on their own or with a few folks, are our dry cleaners, restaurateurs, printers, Web developers and providers of many services and products each of us comes in contact with on a daily basis.
Small-business owners have started their businesses for a variety of reasons. For many, it’s the opportunity to make a difference in their own lives, their families and their communities.
As you know, small business is the backbone of America. Like many regions across this country, the majority of those who work for a for-profit business in Central Pennsylvania work for a small business. I am so proud to call myself a small-business owner and I am very excited that the Central Penn Business Journal — along with our sponsors of our Small Business Week celebration, presenting sponsor Citizens Bank, major sponsor Highmark Blue Shield and supporting sponsors Comcast Business Class, Gift and Associates, Tucker Arensberg and PaySmart Payroll Services — is highlighting the good works of established and new small businesses in our region.
Despite changing economic times, regulations and the other factors that impinge on small businesses, it’s the person with drive and vision who still succeeds. And this region is rich in that kind of person. Whether it’s someone in a generations-old enterprise, a newcomer to this country, a recent grad, a person looking for a second career after retiring or losing a job, the American dream can be achieved in the midstate and it’s keeping us strong.
David A. Schankweiler is CEO/publisher of the Central Penn Business Journal.