The Small Business Pivot

The slowing economy and volatile markets are posing major challenges for those at the heart of the U.S. economy — small business owners. But despite inflation, rising rates and ongoing labor shortages, small business owners remain optimistic about the road ahead. From launching new shelf-stable products to accessing local partnerships, small business owners are tapping their creativity and resourcefulness to connect with customers. Our Pivot series follows the personal stories of seven graduates of the 10,000 Small Business program who are perfecting the art of the pivot.

Small Business Owners Find Community and a Voice Amid Crises  

In the face of rising costs, a tight job market and a slowing economy, small business owners remain optimistic about the road ahead and are focusing on the impact they can have in their communities.

Barb Smith, president of Journey Steel of Cincinnati, Ohio, says she started her company in 2009 with the goal of bringing more diversity to the manufacturing industry. “We wanted to create a platform for women and minorities to have a voice in an industry that’s white and male dominated,” she says.

The economic challenges have spurred Smith to expand into producing more parts and materials that Journey Steel wasn’t previously manufacturing, while teaming up with other organizations to bid on projects.

“The changing market has allowed me to evaluate and identify an area where we can diversity our product,” Smith says. “This pandemic may never be over but it definitely has changed the trajectory of what we’re looking at as construction company.”

Smith, for her part, gives back to her community through a nonprofit arm of her company that helps high school juniors – many of whom she describes “those that won’t go to college for one reason or another, be it the grades or because they can’t afford to” – find apprenticeship opportunities in the manufacturing sector after graduation while raising their awareness about potential career paths. “We’re taking away the stigmatism of working with your hands.”

“This is how we’re going to change the world,” she says. “One young person at a time, letting them hope and dream again.”

Amplifying small businesses’ voices with policymakers and in the community

Katie Mehnert, founder and CEO of Ally Energy based in Houston, Texas, hopes to work directly with Congress to help raise the voices of small business owners. “As the energy capital of the world, we have an opportunity to get small business owners engaged in the energy transition,” she says. “We really need policymakers to listen to constituents like us because we are the heart of the economy.”

Barb Smith and Katie Mehnert are graduates of Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program and shared their stories at Goldman Sachs’ 2022 10,000 Small Businesses Summit in Washington, D.C.


More from our 10,000 Small Businesses Pivot series:

Part 1: Pivoting During the Pandemic

Part 2: Small Business Owners Get Creative Amid Supply Chain Delays, Rising Costs