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US Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s small business story

They are small but mighty. According to Senator Jeanne Shaheen, nearly all New Hampshire businesses are considered “small” businesses, employing about half of the people in the state.

In late September, Shaheen announced she would become chair of the US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

We spoke about the biggest issues small businesses face in New Hampshire, Shaheen’s experience with a small business of her own, priorities in her new position, and her favorite small business piece of trivia: “They create 16 times more patents than large businesses.” (!)

As chair, Shaheen will be in a position of power to set the agenda about the bills the committee takes up and the hearings they hold.

“The first hearing... is on the outdoor industry, which as we know is very important to New Hampshire, and is a significant part of the US economy that is growing,” she said.

Andrew Drummond, who owns a ski shop in Jackson, N.H., spoke at the Nov. 1 hearing in Washington.

Shaheen’s own small business experience began years ago, at a little shop called Bill and Bob’s in York, Maine, which her husband opened right before they were married in 1969. She ran the seasonal silver and leather business with him for seven or eight years until he was called away to become US Attorney for NH in 1977. At that point, they gave the business to her husband’s sister and brother-in-law. She said the business is still in the family and her husband’s nephew is operating it.

“It certainly taught me a lot about making payroll, that the business always came first,” Shaheen said.

The major issues Shaheen believes small businesses face in New Hampshire will likely sound familiar: workforce issues, housing, and child care. Access to capital is another problem, one area where she said the US Small Business Administration can assist by helping with loans.

She said the federal government can also help with technical assistance through Small Business Development Centers, or connect business owners to mentors through the SCORE Program that offers free business advice.

“Small businesses are a significant contributor to the economy, and that’s why we’re focused on them and what can be done to help them,” Shaheen said.

I’ll leave you with one more small business fun fact: the fastest growing area of small business? Those owned by women.