Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Let Your Voice Be Heard

This is what I sent in on this website, which is looking for comments from business owners so Congressman Issa can take politicians to school on the subject.


I sell baby booties retail at craft shows, but most of my sales are small wholesale orders to boutiques. The market for high end boutique baby items dried up. Part of it was the slowing economy, and part of it was boutiques waiting to see what would fall out with CPSIA. Once CPSIA was more or less settled and the closures stabilized, I saw a slight increase in business, which I attribute to me being one of the few businesses left standing. A lot of my friends in similar businesses closed theirs or changed to making adult or pet products, and others were dissuaded from starting up by CPSIA. These are just micro-businesses that would turn a few hundred bucks a month, but that's a few hundred bucks a month people are now not making. If you need that money for bills, you have to get another job, which is what I did when things got so slow that the business was no longer bringing in enough money to pay my bills.

For a lot of women like myself who have home based micro-businesses, closing these businesses *is* eliminating a job. Many of us chose to work this way because we *can't* work a traditional job. Some of us are disabled or have kids with special needs. Some of us can't find jobs in our field that are flexible enough with hours, or pay enough to bring in the same amount of money after paying child care expenses. We haven't turned to the government for solutions or handouts; we got creative and made our own opportunities. And now those opportunities are being taken away from us, in dribs and drabs, by every one of these laws aimed at the "big guys."

And even if the economy were booming, we wouldn't be able to expand our businesses. Could we hire somebody part-time to do the books or the shipping? I wouldn't even know where to start with that. It would cost me more than I could afford just to talk to a lawyer or an accountant to ask. Not to mention that they'd probably tell me I had to have MSDS data sheets on hand for the cup of water I offer my employee when he's thirsty, or that I'd have to spend hours finding an adequate health plan, or something. It would open me up to an entirely new circle of bureaucratic hell, deeper than the one I'm currently in just by having a business. You shouldn't have to hire a lawyer and an accountant to bring in a part-time teenage shipping clerk. The law should be clear and easy for the layperson to use.

Government, with all their aggregate statistics, simply ignores cottage industry. And yet the internet has made it possible for cottage industry to expand exponentially. Congress seems to think that if the "big guys" agree to the regulation, that means they have the consent of businesses. But it's a power-law distribution: 80% of the business is done by 20% of the companies. Unfortunately the laws always seem to be written in ways that ignore the "long tail" of the distribution-- people like me, in the 80% of companies that do 20% of the business. We're too small to belong to any organization bigger than the Handmade Toy Alliance-- we can't afford the dues for Chambers of Commerce and the like, let alone lobbyists and certainly not top-notch lobbyists. If you want to defend the "little guy"-- defend *us*. Defend us against the trial lawyers' groups. Defend us against laws that bigger businesses can stomach but we can't. Defend us against predatory "consumer" groups who want to count coup on "big business" and don't care if we get hit in the crossfire. We are the ones who are truly defenseless in this fight, because literally all we have to "fight the power" with is a Twitter account.