If Thursday’s Northeast Kentucky Small Business Awards are any indication, entrepreneurialism is alive and well in Ashland and the surrounding areas. A record number of businesses and individuals — 64 total from Boyd, Greenup and Carter counties — were nominated for consideration in nearly a dozen categories this year.
They ranged from small main street shops to businesses with national and international footprints. Some opened their doors within the last year while others have ridden out the crests and troughs of the local economy for more than 75.
Each business was impressive in its own right, and those in the spotlight this week represent just a fraction of the area’s most industrious citizens. All too often these folks are simply too busy toiling away day and night to stand up and solicit the recognition they deserve or the help they need to prosper.
It falls on the rest of us to be aware of and applaud these individuals and businesses for their efforts and to assist them wherever we can. We must also encourage others to follow their lead.
A majority of Americans are employed by small businessess, and with unemployment continuing to be high — especially among the youngest workers — we need all the new ones we can get. We must foster an environment to inspire business to begin and stay here.
Starting a business is often a daunting and scary process. It requires guts, and often a tiny pinch of recklessness, to ultimately make that jump from being employed to being an employer, even if the employee is only oneself.
Sustaining one requires stamina and stubbornness, patience and resilience in the face of uncertainty and circumstance. Small businesses dare to take risks while so many others stand still, paralyzed by the fears.
These individuals are driven by a deep-seated passions and desire to create or invent their own fulfilling career instead of simply accepting what is offered to them by others. Many start their businesses with little more than an idea or a skill.
They see a niche they think they can fill, often seizing someone else’s overlooked opportunity. Others create their own, simply by putting themselves out there.
Our small businesses are the keepers of the American Dream. These individuals haven’t given up on the idea that the seeds of hard work, carefully sown over a lifetime, can grow into a harvest of prosperity for themselves, their families and their communities.
There are examples of this spirit all around the Tri-State. I know so many individuals, both young and old, who have ideas and aspirations for new businesses that if nurtured properly and grown will benefit us all.
Judging by the success stories of Thursday our region’s most prosperous days could well lay before us instead of behind.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.