By Dylan Deprey
After shuffling through the paperwork, permits, licenses, and regulations at City Hall, some small businesses never see the light of day. The red tape ceremony an entrepreneur envisions is quickly replaced by yellow caution tape and a chalk outline of their could-have-been-dream.
As part of a competition hosted by U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the City of Milwaukee’s StartSmart online application will relieve the hassle for opening a small business.
Milwaukee was one of fifty winners in the President Obama’s 2015 “Startup in a Day” competition. It was created to help cities across the country streamline the process and paperwork that are required in starting a small business, so much in fact it could be done in one day. Milwaukee won $50,000 from the competition to put towards creating StartSmart.
“This is really one stop shopping for people who want to build a business,” said Mayor Tom Barrett.
StartSmart bypasses the many headaches that come from piles of paperwork and hours waiting in lines. The city launched the website during a press conference on September 14, 2016.
The current system concentrates on hospitality services, including food and alcohol sales, but more business types will be added to the program in months to come. The program is currently in English and a Spanish version will be available by the end September. The interactive questions are also complemented by educational videos regarding necessary licenses and permit.
SBA Administrator and Cabinet Member Maria Contreras-Sweet was empathetic for those trying to build a small business, having opened three different small businesses herself.
“I know what it is like to wait in ten different lines,” Contreras-Sweet said.
She applauded the cities’ efforts in creating an original user-friendly interface that provides entrepreneurs a full rundown of the needed documents available in only a couple of clicks.
Many recommendations for the website were generated by the Local Business Action Team (LBAT), a group of city officials and business leaders created by the Common Council in 2014.
Ald. Terry Witkowski worked on LBAT and said the recommendations generated through meetings and workshops meshed perfectly with the criteria for “Startup in a Day.”
“Government itself is confusing. To apply and start a new business, and come in to the problem of all the regulations and all the hurdles you have to go through is a daunting task,” Witkowski said.
Although it may be a daunting task there are 28.8 million small business in the United States, and according to the SBA small businesses have accounted almost two-thirds of the net jobs created between 1993 and 2013.
The SBA is a federal organization that supports small businesses through guaranteed loans and business counseling. They also credit smalls business for the 76 months of consecutive job growth in the United States
“The economic comeback story is emanating from small businesses,” Contreras-Sweet said.
To view the StartSmart application visit http://city.milwaukee.gov/StartSmart