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Small businesses 'want their voice heard' on inflation, labor, supply chains: Expert

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Goldman Sachs Foundation President Asahi Pompey joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss small business growth, inflation, the state of the labor market, supply chain woes, and the importance of diversity on boards.

Video transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

BRIAN SOZZI: Goldman Sachs is doubling down on the small business recovery, announcing the largest gathering of small business owners in the United States on July 19th and the 20th. The summit will include speeches from Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, Warren Buffett, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Joining us now to discuss is Goldman Sachs Foundation President Asahi Pompey. Asahi, great to see you again. Last time I saw you was in Davos, so I hope things have been well on your end. Take us through this summit a little bit. What are you expecting to hear from attendees on the health of the small business recovery?

ASAHI POMPEY: Brian, it's great to be with you again. Look, we are hosting-- as you said, we're announcing the largest gathering ever of small business owners in the history of this country. Small businesses are coming to Washington, DC, and they're saying a number of things.

In particular, they want their voice to be heard, in particular with lawmakers. So advocacy is a key component. We're organizing 400 meetings with our small business community, over 2,500 of them with lawmakers. They want their voice heard around inflation, serious, serious concerns inflationary pressures are having on small business.

They want their voice heard around labor and workforce challenges. 97% of our small business community say it's hard finding employees for their business. And they want their voice heard around the supply chain issues that we're experiencing as well.

BRIAN SOZZI: Asahi, what do lawmakers need to do to answer those voices? What do small businesses really want to hear from the administration?

ASAHI POMPEY: You know, I'll give you one example. Over the course of the pandemic we launched our 10,000 Small Businesses Voices platform, and this is specifically focused on serving small businesses and keeping a pulse on small business. We've conducted 12 surveys to date, and here specifically is one solution that small business owners have made loud and clear their voices known to me on. They're asking for the SBA to be reauthorized.

Now just to unpack a little bit what that means is when the SBA is reauthorized, there's a front to back review, really looking at the SBA policies, procedures, platforms. And small business owners are asking for the SBA to be reauthorized. SBA has not been reauthorized since 2000.

So at that point the iPhone hadn't been launched. Amazon was the largest river versus what we know as Amazon today. And so, all of those things have happened, and so small business owners are saying, look at the SBA, and we need the SBA to really be an SBA for 2022, 2030, and beyond.

BRAD SMITH: Hi, Asahi. Brad here. You know, I wonder how some of the small businesses that you speak with are bracing for a potential recession.

ASAHI POMPEY: You know, that's what we're hearing in the survey data loud and clear. They're very, very concerned about a potential recession, in particular because of the supply chain issues that they've been facing. They're paying more for product because of inflationary pressures. They're having trouble finding products. They're having trouble finding employees for products.

So that's a perfect storm as it relates to our small business community. And you and I know that small business owners really feel the dips and the swings of the economy first. They're the ones, the sort of canary in the mine, around what's happening, so that's a huge concern from our small business community.

BRIAN SOZZI: Asahi, I really enjoyed this interview I believe you did recently on Essence, looking at Black women on boards. And looks to be there is a little bit of an improvement, but wow, not much of improvement. Way more needs to be done. What is the state of corporate America when it comes to this?

ASAHI POMPEY: I'm glad that you raised this issue, because under our Million Black Women initiative we've really been focused on-- as you know, it's a $10 billion initiative and on top of it $100 million in philanthropic capital focused on Black women. And in particular we've looked at Black women on boards, and the numbers are really dismal in terms of representation of Black women on boards and having that seat at the table.

Look, if you're not in the room, then you're on the menu. And so that's been a key focus area, as you see the numbers there have increased slightly, but they're nowhere near where they need to be. And in particular what we discussed at Essence Fest, as you're referencing, was really around making Black women board-ready and also opening corporations up to having more Black women on their boards to really have their voices heard in the boardroom.

BRAD SMITH: I watched Essence Fest from afar, and I was jealous that I was not able to be there on site. It looked like an awesome time and certainly a ton of great conversations, and especially in just moving forward on diversity, equity, and inclusion and also for so many small businesses that may have also been represented there, too.

You know, I wonder even in this time where-- and especially with an event and a summit like that which you're about to throw and put on-- how they're thinking about the competitive landscape that many of them are looking across and kind of trying to hit up at some of the larger entities.

Whether that be on the advertising front, whether that just be on the individual product front as well, if they're trying to sell into Amazon, however Amazon also having their own private brand, and at that point where are their sources for continuing to beg and ask for more opportunities to sell to the consumers?

ASAHI POMPEY: I love this question in particular, because this is one of the issues that we're going to be talking about at our summit in Washington, DC, on July 19th and 20th, which is we are bringing together 2,500 of our small business owners to really talk about where the opportunity set is for small business. Where is the growth opportunity for small business? What can they learn from luminaries like Warren Buffett, Mike Bloomberg?

What can they learn from entrepreneurs like Gwyneth Paltrow, Marcus Samuelsson, Emma Grede, Rebecca Minkoff, and others around not only small businesses having their place and their voice heard in 2022 but what needs to be changed from a policy perspective for them to be able to, as you describe, take advantage of those bigger opportunities and really compete? Because while their businesses may be small, their impact is big, and their voice is big.

BRAD SMITH: Yahoo Finance and our own Brian Sozzi will be at the summit, and so we're very excited to see the conversations that come out of that. Asahi Pompey, who is joining us here today, Goldman Sachs Foundation President, Asahi, appreciate the conversation.

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