Small Business Dramas: Surviving the Depression

February 6, 2010 Working Your Creative Enterprise

by Atim Annette Oton, Feb 6, 2010

The store, Calabar Imports

Even as the media continues to proclaim that things are getting better and the statistics are showing some improvements, the truth is for small businesses in local communities, it’s not getting better. Just talk to any small business today and you will hear the “pain” as well as comments about a depression and not a recession.

After five years in business, I am reminded that growing uphill in a downhill market is not just a challenge – it’s a song and dance – like a drama.  You weave and turn, grin and bear it, and hope to survive through it waiting for things to get better. This week ends with two businesses I know announcing what seems to be an evolving episode these last two years: One is available for sale (and I was asked not to reveal the name) and another local business, Bread Stuy, announcing on Facebook- a Save Bread Stuy Campaign. I hear the pain and ask you like I did all my Facebook friends to go and help Bread Stuy.

Earlier this week, President Obama talked about tax breaks and loan aids to small businesses. I can speak the truth like most small businesses: I don’t need a tax break. I got one already –  it came in the form of a bad news gift:  the number of customers not purchasing is still increasing, and not decreasing. So I am already paying less taxes, vis-a-vis, lower sales some months.  I have diversified my products and targeted price points – creatively, so I am paying less taxes. And loans, well, it’s a great idea if small businesses had more customers, then that mantra would be perfect. But borrowing more money now seems less practical.

I am not complaining, but if there was a bank out there that would give me a $20,000 loan or any other small business money to market online exclusively, then we  would be Solid Gold Friends. My banker with his smiling face says that they prefer to loan to businesses who need more merchandise or renovation. I have the merchandise and have done renovation already and so have a lot of small businesses. Marketing is not seen as a necessity model for business loans from the banking community. It is ironic since they spend more than most businesses themselves.

Some Small Businesses Solutions:

I write this after some reflection and the reality of watching the depression, not the recession. It’s my perspective of the state of business in Brooklyn, and a way to inspire other businesses to “rethink”.  I would love to hear what you think, so feel free to email me at

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.

Need I say more.  I look at as small business dramas as an evolving circle of  life and business. If my customers remain employed, find jobs or get a promotion; then, they will spend more, and small businesses will hire staff , pay more taxes, so those “imaginary” tax breaks will actually mean something. I am still looking to create jobs…I have no solution here.

Export, Export, Export.

I do think that some of the solution lies in getting your company global and selling services and products to markets like Africa – where cash is key and not credit. Africans have 80% cash and 20% debt or credit while Americans have 80% debt and 20% cash – so, who do you think is doing better. All small businesses should visit and begin to research opportunities and markets. Even simply, reach out in Brooklyn to The Brooklyn International Trade Development Center. The US Government is serious about it, just ask the Department of Commerce. Even the President mentioned the word “Trade” in his State of the Union, the first time any American president has done so.  But be wary, businesses like mine that have gone global – to Nigeria – where the US Government is making export processes longer because of the country being listed as a “Terrorist” state – will need Patience. I actually will continue to expand there but when my shipping process is taking more time, it slows down growth.

Partner, Partner, Partner

I am a big believer in partnerships and collaborations. It is in my creative entrepreneur DNA. I am seeking a partner now for developing a clothing line for Spring 2011 for the store, Calabar and for the Nigerian store, ZimaZee. Why? I have a vision of the brand and line, and I would like to work with a partner to get it to market. Simple, the idea and the brand is strong and needs to grow in another direction from retail to wholesale. Any takers? Just email me.

Save, Save, Save

One last thing, it is vital that small business pay themselves first – so, create a savings plan this year – and pay yourself weekly. It is the beginning of creative way to survive the depression…it is not a recession, that we are coming out of.


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Comments (2)


  1. Stephanie says:

    Great perspective for a small business

  2. Awesome topic and i totally agree with you with this view right here. Its hillarious, that is what i should say about this. Because this def is what this whole internet thing is about or am i wrong? Greetings all!

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