Seat at the Table

Jul 20, 2022 | Advocacy, Uncategorized

The word “advocacy” might sound overwhelming at first to a woman business owner who has never engaged with her legislators or testified on Capitol Hill about an issue that impacts her business, but it shouldn’t be. Our NAWBO founding mothers didn’t start out as advocates. They were women business owners, like each of us, with big dreams and obstacles keeping them from fully achieving those.

They formed NAWBO in Washington, DC, because they knew they were better together. They began sharing information about federal contracts, access to capital and more. And their efforts, and the number of women who joined them, grew into today’s NAWBO voice that’s bipartisan by design and widely respected on Capitol Hill and in state capitals and communities across the U.S.

Last month, NAWBO held its annual Advocacy Days in-person in Washington, DC for the first time in two years. It was so incredible to come back together again to truly experience the power of our NAWBO voice. We connected and weighed in on issues impacting our businesses with key decision makers, with a focus on NAWBO’s key policy areas for 2022:

  1. Addressing the needs of the “microbusiness” and encouraging emerging entrepreneurs
  2. Hiring squeeze
  3. Implementation of Bipartisan Infrastructure Act: Broadband Expansion
  4. Accessing capital through increased financial literacy education

If you were unable to join us, it’s never too late to power your voice to impact positive change for yourself and our community of women business owners. It can be as simple as understanding that legislators want to hear from people on Main Street and sending an email to start a conversation.

In fact, here are some tips from NAWBO HQ’s advocacy team for engaging with elected officials and testifying:

  1. Know who your elected officials are, including your Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Legislature, State Senate, Secretary of State and State Supreme Court Justices. 
  2. If you have a concern as a women business owner, start by sending an email to your legislators saying, “Hello, this is X, I have a business in X and these are some of my concerns…’”
  3. Build relationships with the staff of your elected officials; they’re the ones doing a lot of the work and recommending people to committees.
  4. Follow and engage with legislators on social media—most all are on Facebook and some on Instagram and even TikTok.
  5. When you receive a message about joining a town hall for one of your legislators, just join. These are an excellent opportunity to engage and ask questions. 
  6. If you’re invited to testify on the Hill, say yes! Speak with staff prior to the hearing to get an idea of questions you might hear. Familiarize yourself with committee members and key staffers. Practice your opening statement and prepare for questions you may be asked. 
  7. Once you’re on the Hill, virtually or in-person, be courteous of committee members’ time and don’t interrupt when other witnesses are speaking. 
  8. When preparing written testimony, make sure it’s personal—use your experience as a business owner to inform your testimony. Also, ensure all information is accurate, honest, relevant and bipartisan—remember, your duty is to inform the entire committee. 

Advocacy is really the foundation of NAWBO, and all of us have the power to strengthen this foundation for generations of women business owners to come. Learn more here.

—Karen Bennetts
  2022-2023 NAWBO National Board Chair

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