Before coming to Congress, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY-22) was a small business owner. Tenney’s family founded a newspaper and packaging company in 1946 that she took over from her parents and helped run, which provided her with insights into how small business owners can work with members of Congress to get things done.
In order to make sure that small businesses had a seat at the table in Congress, Tenney launched the “Renew NY-22” campaign in her district in which she organized business roundtables to ask businesses what policies they wanted from government.
“We met with all the business owners, manufacturing, we did different sectors, and said what’s your biggest challenge? What can government do to either stay out of your way or make your life easier and make you more successful?” Tenney told Quorum. “It was really really interesting and from that we came up with Renew New York and then worked with our business community to communicate that message and bring that message to Washington.”
Research suggests that meeting face-to-face with your member of Congress or their staff is the most effective way to make an impact on an issue. Take advantage of opportunities to meet with your member of Congress at town halls or roundtables by explaining how potential legislation or lack thereof will impact your business and the community at large. If a member doesn’t have an organized opportunity for constituent engagement, reach out to the district office to set up a meeting with a member of the Congressperson’s staff.
As small business owners may not have the knowledge or experience advocating for their issues in Congress, Tenney recommends working with organizations like the National Federation of Independent Businesses or the Small Business Administration.
“They help advocate for the very issues that small businesses face,” Tenney said. “There’s a number of groups that have tried to come and help small businesses so they know what’s going on in government.”
By working with a national advocacy organization, small businesses can amplify their voice and utilize the institutional knowledge of the umbrella organization to be more effective in advocacy efforts.
A small business can have trouble being heard without the same resources as major corporations, but as federal policies still impact their bottom line, it’s important to find a way to break through the noise. Making a champion out of your member of Congress for small business issues and working with larger advocacy groups can be helpful in making your voice heard at the federal level.