December 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm EST | by Mark Lee
Small business owners have increasingly ‘had it’

Small business owners, gay news, Washington Blade“I am at my wits end trying to do business in this city. Every time we turn around there is another fee, tax, or ‘progressive’ move. I support worker’s rights and fair wages for employees – but there has to be a real understanding and not just lip service from our elected officials about the challenges that small, locally owned businesses face. [We] can’t move out like Walmart did when hearing about the Paid Leave Act, yet are expected to warmly embrace all of this stuff. I’ve had it.”

These words – from a respected lesbian owner of a D.C. retail business – landed in my inbox last week. It was among several similar messages received in response to this columnist’s take earlier this month on the disconnect between District elected officials and both the local enterprise community and the city’s lower-income residents.

She’s not running a one-woman or mom-and-mom operation, but a landmark homegrown small business that has helped shape the identity of a prominent D.C. neighborhood. Her business employs scores of primarily District residents, many born or long-raised in the city and local school system graduates.

She is making the contribution small business owners across the country make every day – while creating 2-of-3 new jobs in America. Her business is the workplace of many entry-level or less-experienced employees learning new skills and honing new responsibilities as they move up the ranks alongside more seasoned personnel.

It’s an owner-operator’s lament, nearly universal among commerce here and a handful of the most notoriously business-unfriendly locales like D.C. “They don’t even care about us, or our ability to survive and thrive,” is the refrain.

Important, too, due the uniquely high percentage of LGBT entrepreneurs and enterprise owners and management populating U.S. businesses – estimated to be 10 percent of the gay community.

Cultural assimilation and social acclamation continue to create political divergence within LGBT ranks and alter party allegiance, reinforced by a growing gratitude to the mainstream corporate community for now almost single-handedly defending and broadening our civil equality. We’ll likely see acceleration in that process, driven by lesbian and gay businesspersons.

While the two national political parties have devolved toward crony capitalism dependent on the largess of elite corporate client-patrons, the growing estrangement of smaller-scale entrepreneurs from the Democratic Party stands out strong.

It’s emblematic of the dilemma Democrats face as the anti-enterprise party. Bill Gates may have been overly optimistic when speculating last week that President-elect Donald Trump has the potential to bring innovation to the country and government in the manner of President Kennedy, but it resonated with many in business.

Commerce creators are bemused by confounded Democratic and media reaction to a businessman working in the White House. Especially given business-operating citizen-legislators occupying many an elected position in cities and towns outside the rarified political bubbles of deep-blue urban areas.

Liberals are sweating under the covers at night with both eyes wide open. Job-creators – whether lesbian or gay or not – sleep soundly with perhaps one eye half-cocked, wondering if Trump is the right person to shift the country in a better direction. Enterprise values predictability, and there’s little about Trump that is predictable.

Small business owners, however, know it could be worse – Hillary Clinton and the Democrats could be in charge. That “lip service” the business owner wrote to bemoan is their trademark. Enterprise folks no longer listen to liberals when lying about that legacy.

Small business owners’ reaction to Trump’s election is the highest satisfaction level Gallup has surveyed in eight years, shooting up to a favorable 80 percent and rebounding from an indexed low of minus-28 during President Obama’s term. By a ratio of 3-to-1, operators of modest-sized enterprise anticipate that Trump and a Republican Congress will improve prospects for their business. That roughly equals the percentage of the nation’s small business owners who now align with the Republican Party.

Democrats have only themselves to blame for that.

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at

  • Sad when people have to rely on the dead-end low-paid jobs these small business whiners like Marc Lee provide. But when you’re a conservative you always have to complain about something!

    On top of that, they’ll be targeting the social security and medicare you’ll have to depend on one day to pay for the 20% corporate tax cut they want to give businesses. That won’t translate into higher wages or better benefits for you. Just more for them at your expense!

  • Small business owners “had it” and the DC Council took it and redistributed it to assuage the people who keep them in office. Conservative ranting is not going to thwart what has been their modus operandi for years. This political self-preservation tactic is not likely to change until the influx of new residents bends the voter profile required to win city-wide election.

  • This article is crap. Democrats do not inhibit business. Democrats want balance so that business owners do not steamroll over their employees.

    Right-to-Work State? A complete misnomer.

    Injured on the job in a Conservative State? Good luck even getting paid a partial wage while you recuperate from your Employer’s failure to maintain his/her equipment. You may lose your home and everything over else in the nine months or a year while your attorney is overwhelmed with the Conservative-created legislation which steeply advantages the Employer, rather than the employee.

    “Wah! Wah! Wah! I can’t afford to run a business in the richest city in the Nation! The Government should give me some assistance!” Well maybe you are not cut out for “enterpreneurship? Maybe you should stop whining about regulations and take a course in business? Maybe admit incompetence and apply for a job at Walmart? Maybe Trump will make you rich? LOL

    It is not government regulation that impedes your success. BULLETIN: it’s y-o-u.

    Here is what Conservative’s do not seem to comprehend. They do not understand what our government is For. It is “For the People”. It is not “For the “Promotion of Business Owners”. If you are capable of and qualified to run a business, then you can do so. If not, as is abundantly evidenced by your repeated failures, and excuses addressed herein, then you can’t. Government owes you nothing, sorry. If you want to play the game, then you must follow the requirements. Government is not here to assist you in your quest for profits. It is here to protect the People.

    • The purpose of a business is to make a profit for its owners or investors. The purpose of a business is not to provide jobs, benefits, a “living wage” or social justice. Should a business fail to make a profit there will be no jobs, no benefits, no wages living or otherwise and no social justice. The government makes nothing yet spends all it wants and takes all it needs and more from the makers.

  • A business that takes advantage of its employees or provides unsafe or low quality products or services is no different than the largest multi-national. If you can’t pay your staff a decent wage maybe you don’t deserve to be in business.

  • If your business needs a white supremacist in the White House in order to succeed, I urge you to re-examine your business model (and your ethics). But I seriously doubt success will be in the cards for most business owners, small or large, once Trump’s recession kicks in.

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