Plenary Sessions: How to Get Small Business Voices Heard – Telling the Stories of the Small Business Economy

“Ensuring Our Voice is Heard” – Telling the Stories of the Small Business Economy

If small businesses ever want movers and shakers to be able to understand what benefits entrepreneurs, we must be telling real stories of small business owners in the media. Increasingly, those stories are being told fewer and farther between, and when they are being told, they often don’t accurately represent the issues of small business.  During this session our nation’s leading reporters and commentators on small business discussed the portrayal of small business in the media, and what can be done to increase the prominence of our stories.


  • Jeff Wasden, President, Colorado Business Roundtable (Moderator)
  • Joyce Rosenberg, Small Business Reporter at the Associated Press
  • Kent Hoover, Washington Bureau Chief of the Business Journals
  • Loren Feldman, Senior Editor and Entrepreneurship Reporter for Forbes

“If You’re Not At The Table…” – Ensuring the Small Business Voice is Represented

Whenever a policy or a piece of legislation is being considered, there will always be an effect on small business. That is because small business is always at the forefront of any major economic shift – and their success drives the success of our national economy and the middle-class. Thus, policymakers need to take into account small business’ collective needs when considering policy initiatives. However, with large corporations and special interests outweighing small businesses in time spent with lawmakers, entrepreneurs’ voices are being lost in the conversation. During this session we dove into what makes lawmakers tick, and how small business owners can ensure that their voice is being properly represented to their representatives on Capitol Hill.


  • Robert Raben, Founder and President of Washington D.C.-based consulting firm The Raben Group (moderator)
  • Ann Sullivan, President of Madison Services Group
  • Caroline Bruckner, Managing Director, Kogod, School of Business, American University
  • Lake Coulson, Vice President for Government Affairs, National Association of Home Builders

The Outdoor Economy’s Impact on Small Business

Many small business owners depend on their proximity to federally-protected lands and outdoor wonders as tourism lures to attract consumers. Some even utilize their environment to create a business that revolves around it. Research shows the federal protection of public lands has a direct impact on local economies and small businesses. The preservation of these lands is vital to many small businesses – they bring in consumers, boost the bottom lines of many businesses and bolster local economies and communities. This panel examined the ways in which federally-protected lands impact local economies, including discussion of our recent economic report on national monuments, and current initiatives seeking to boost our nation’s outdoor economy.


A 4-4 Split: The Consequences of a Supreme Court Vacancy

With the opening of a vacancy of on the Supreme Court, some of the most significant cases being considered this year may result in a split 4-4 decision. Currently, it’s been more than 50 days since President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the high court, and the Senate continues to refuse to hold a hearing to consider his nomination. With so many important issues facing our country being considered by the Supreme Court this year, this panel discussed the impact of a Supreme Court vacancy on small business.


  • Lena Zwarensteyn (Moderator), Director of Strategic Engagement, American Constitution Society
  • Alan Morrison, Lerner Family Associate Dean for Public Interest and Public Service Law and Professorial Lecturer in Law, The George Washington University Law School
  • Anne Zimmerman, President, Zimmerman & Co. CPAs Inc.
  • Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President, Senior Deputy Director of Public Engagement, White House

Interactive Panels

Alternative & Online Lending

This panel examined the growing realm of alternative and online lending options, and efforts being made to increase transparency and responsibility in the industry.


Freelance Economy

This session discussed how the freelance economy changes the way we think about the workforce and entrepreneurship. In addition, we will discuss programs and policies available to assist freelancers and microbusinesses.


  • Robert Friedman, Founder, Chair of the Board and General Counsel, Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED)
  • Maureen Conway, Vice President, Executive Director of the Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program (EOP), Aspen Institute
  • Katie Vliestra, Vice President for Government Relations and Public Affairs, National Association for Self-Employed (NASE)
  • Vaneese Johnson of The Boldness Coach


Healthcare: The Value of Prescription Drugs

Although the ACA has improved options for small businesses, the overall cost is often still high, putting small business owners at a disadvantage. Overall, retail prescription drug spending represents 19% of health spending in employer plans. This panel provided a conversation on how the value of prescription drugs factors into small employers’ healthcare costs and what they can do about it.


  • Meena Seshamani, Director of the Office of Health Reform, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
  • Matt Eyles, Executive Vice President, Policy & Regulatory Affairs, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)
  • Lori Reilly, Executive Vice-President for Policy & Research, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA)
  • Eleanor Perfetto, Senior Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, National Health Council

Minority Entrepreneurship

This roundtable event discussed the role mentors play in the success of minority-owned small businesses and what policies and resources minority entrepreneurs need to thrive.


  • LaJuanna Russell, President, Business Management Association, Inc. (Small Business Majority Board Member)
  • Albert Morales, Vice President Government Affairs & Policy, US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Sam McClure, Senior Vice President, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

Asset Building and Entrepreneurship

This panel provided an opportunity for attendees to learn about the policies and legislation that look to address retirement security for small businesses and their employees. In addition, panelists discussed how to build programs that small businesses can utilize to provide comprehensive retirement programs while keeping businesses competitive.


  • Ida Rademacher, Executive Director of the Financial Security Program, Aspen Institute (moderator)
  • Bennett Kleinberg, Vice President of Business Development and Innovation, Prudential Financial
  • Gary Koenig, Vice President of Financial Security, AARP
  • Geraldine Aglipay of Small Business Majority

Women’s Entrepreneurship

This event featured a conversation on the factors that have contributed to women’s progress in the small business arena. In addition, we discussed the types of policies that should be instated that could give women the help they need to start truly smashing the entrepreneurship glass ceiling.


  • Celia Canfield, Founder, EcoVertex (Small Business Majority Board Member)
  • Lisa Goodbee, President, Goodbee & Associates (Small Business Majority Council Member)
  • Erin Andrew, Director of the SBA’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership, SBA
  • Tonya McNeal-Weary, Executive Director and Founder, Michigan Association for Female Entrepreneurs (MAFE)
  • Jo Cato, Managing Partner, Periwinkle Media Group