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Here's why we should celebrate small business success

Colorado small businesses like ImageSeller drive the economy


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Each year in May, America celebrates small business week and the contributions of the nation’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. And for good reason: The impact of small business is significant, creating two-thirds of net new U.S. jobs each year and employing more than half of all Americans.

In Colorado, 98 percent of statewide businesses have fewer than 100 employees, and 86 percent have 20 workers or less, according to SBA District Director Edward Cadena. Without question, small businesses are the heart of Colorado's economy, but owning your own business is no easy task. Businesses that survive—let alone those that thrive—should be celebrated.

Denver-based creative merchandise agency ImageSeller, which develops and manages promotional and branded merchandise programs for major brands across the country, is celebrating its own milestone: 24 years in business.

“Twenty-four years is significant for any business in this day and age, especially when the life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company is 15 years or less,” ImageSeller President and CEO Lee Wandling says.

In 1992, the year that ImageSeller launched, Bill Clinton became the 42nd president; major airline TWA declared bankruptcy; Euro Disney opened in France; and Mall of America broke ground in Minnesota.

Now, 24 years later: President Clinton's wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is campaigning for the presidency, and TWA no longer exists, having been acquired by American Airlines. Euro Disney, now Disneyland Paris, has been riddled with poor financial performance and growing debt since opening its gates; and Mall of America has become the second largest U.S. retail mall, investing billions of dollars in property expansions.

Locally, ImageSeller continues to grow year-over-year, now with 35 full-time employees and an impressive client list, including Colorado companies Zayo, Udi's Gluten Free Bread and RTD Denver as well as national corporation Brown-Forman, to name a few.

So just what makes some companies survive, others thrive and still more close their doors prematurely? Changing business environments, new technologies, economic shifts and poor planning are common answers. But ImageSeller's Wandling has a different perspective.

"The business world is very circular ― as your business grows and revenue increases, your focus shifts from just keeping your doors open to improving your operations so that you can offer new efficiencies to your customers and improve their margins and profits, too," he says. "For example, we've reinvested a significant amount of our profits into building proprietary sales intelligence and inventory management tools, resulting in increased merchandise program revenues for our clients."

Wandling says small businesses often have the unique ability to respond quicker to market gaps and opportunities than larger corporations.

"At the same time, it's critical that we're smart about every aspect of our business—from operations to budgets to customer service," he says.

Wandling's advice for entrepreneurs just starting out?

"Every business has its ups and downs," he says. "Keep your sense of humor—the challenging times will eventually pass."

Small business resources:

Business counseling, advisement and funding is available to new and existing business owners through these Colorado organizations:

SBA Denver chapter

Colorado Enterprise Fund

ColoradoBiz magazine

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