Why I Never Refer to My Company as a "Small Business"

·2 min read
Photo credit: Alice Morgan - Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Alice Morgan - Hearst Owned

Rochelle Porter is the founder of an eponymous fashion and home design label (with a recent West Elm collab!). Here, she talks about her issue with the label of "small business."

I never call my business a small business. I cringe internally when others refer to it that way. These days, I can barely fill out a small business grant application without a slight wince. Because despite what my balance sheet looks like right now, my business is huge.

It’s a massive, vibrant, industry-disrupting, generational wealth-creating juggernaut of an operation. It employs talented people from across the developing world and compensates them well. It helps feed their families, educate their children, and secure their legacies. It’s a conduit for billions of dollars. It’s a contributor to the eradication of world hunger, the prison industrial complex, and human trafficking. It challenges the long-held notion that a business can’t be simultaneously profitable and compassionate.

Sure, none of this has actually happened yet. But the way I talk about it, it might as well have. And when I voice my decidedly not-small vision to others, they not only see it, they champion it.

Words mean things. They carry tremendous weight and creative power. They reflect and—dare I say—determine our mindsets. They can thwart our potential or catapult us into awesomeness. When we verbalize things, we make them real.

By talking small, we can subconsciously dupe ourselves into playing small. We can convince ourselves that we’re okay with the status quo. We may even shy away from expressing our private, larger-than-life goals for fear of disappointment or ridicule.

It’s time we all started talking bigger.

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I mean, I get it. The phrase “small business” is semantically correct. By SBA standards, any business with fewer than 1,500 employees and less than $38.5 million in annual revenue is small. More than 99% of businesses in the country, including mine, certainly fall into this category. These companies and vital and necessary. Unfortunately, only some are intentionally small.

For the record, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being intentionally small if that’s what you want. There’s charm in the mom-and-pop restaurant that’s been a community mainstay for decades. The local indie record shop that sources rare vinyl is super dope. It’s delightful that your quaint neighborhood bakery boasts the best sweet potato pies in town. But if you secretly dream of being a pastry mogul of Patti LaBelle proportions, say it out loud and proud.

The bottom line: If you want big, declare big. Use words that align the future you desire. Your actions (and balance sheet) will undoubtedly follow.

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