Reno. It’s the third largest city in Nevada and the gateway to some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. It’s also home to thousands of aspiring small businesses including many that use Thumbtack to find customers and grow their business.
Every year Thumbtack interviews thousands of small business owners around the country. This year those business owners – including many in Reno – shared some of the challenges they face with regulation and licensing and the day-to-day travails of growing a small business in their community. These concerns are all-too-familiar to Reno Mayor Hillary Shieve, herself a Reno native, a tireless advocate for Reno’s business district called Midtown, and the owner of two small businesses.
We caught up with Mayor Schieve earlier this year to find out what her office would like to see change in 2016 to help all small businesses in Reno thrive.
How has your own entrepreneurial experience, owning and operating two clothing stores in Midtown, influenced your small business agenda for Reno?
When I started one of my businesses, I was really surprised at the red tape. For example, the city wanted to charge me $5,000 to move a sign two feet, and I became extremely frustrated with the process. Instead of complaining about it, I knew the way to help change that would be to run for office. So I ran for city council in 2014 and I won.
What makes Reno a great environment for small business owners to thrive?
We really have a sense of community and the landscape is changing. There are now, more than ever, groups that you can become involved with, like Startup Row, the Innovation Center in the University, and the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship. I also started a Technology Innovation Council.
What are the most common concerns you hear from small business owners in Reno?
I think a big part of it is that the government still has a lot of red tape, and one of the initiatives I did was Reno Direct, and that is the Reno Business Direct. That was one of the things I really wanted to focus on: that when a business came to the city, they actually had a number that they could be tagged to, so that when you call up, that they could find your projects or where you are in the process, whether it’s a license or permit. And then, they could track it. That way they could actually speak to someone who knew what they were talking about, because I think it’s frustrating how often you can call a city and they don’t even know any of the history, what you’re working on, and what you’re trying to accomplish.
What is the next big thing you’re working on to support small business owners and independent professionals in Reno?
The next thing that I’m actually working on is the program with the Ozmen Center to promote women in business, because we think that the numbers of women that are opening up small businesses are really lacking.
It’s an election year. What are things the president can do or champion to support small businesses nationwide?
I certainly think it’s in tax structures. They need to figure out how to work closer with small business. One thing I think that people forget, certainly in politics, unless you are a business owner, is that small business is the largest job creator. Typically you see big business getting the big tax breaks or the big subsidies and things like that. I think that we’ve got to make the playing field fair for small business, and we’ve got to help them, certainly tax-wise, be able to continue to grow their companies and continue to hire people.
One other thing too that I think is just sort of outrageous is the debt that these college students are having to accrue when they get out of college. If you come out college and you have all that debt, and you want to be an entrepreneur, I think that it’s really, really difficult.
We have to ask: When you need a service professional today, how do you find them?
Two months ago, I came home and there was this big yellow book on my porch. I thought, “Oh my God, we still make these? This is still something that gets used?” I was shocked because now the go-to is certainly all online or by your phone. So I think when you are looking for any resource, the first place is to go online. I can’t even imagine using anything else.
Follow Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve on Twitter @mayorshieve.
[Photo via Hillary Schieve]