Funny Business with Jane Wells

Thinking Big, Feeling Small


I've heard from a lot of viewers and readers since my report on businesses trying to figure out how to pay for healthcare coverage under the new law.

What about really, really small businesses?

Aileen Markowsky says she and her husband are "serial entrepreneurs" who dream big, but feel small in the face of the recession, and now the government.

"I have yet to see real small business represented," she says. For one thing, Markowsky says a "small manufacturing business" as defined by the government often means 500 employees or less. "Somehow I don't see that as small business, and it's certainly not us."

Markowsky and her husband run businesses involving surgical instrument repair, graphic design, jewelry design, and they even landed a contract to build fencing (did I mention the "serial entrepreneur" part?). The recession has been rough, especially on the jewelry side. "The only thing that saved me in 2009 was that I had picked up some boutiques in the Hamptons during the summer of 2008," Aileen Markowksy says. "Anecdotally, those who had previously purchased diamonds were now buying my Swarovski crystals."

The couple has decided not to expand, not to hire, though they'd like to. "I would love to hire someone to do contract work so that I can concentrate on designs and customers," Aileen says, "but the margins are so low now that I can't afford any more cuts to profits."

Her solution? "Here's a thought: reduce the taxes that I pay, which would put money in my pocket today and I can start loosening up my spending. That means that the vendors I use may have to start hiring."

Regarding healthcare, Markowsky and her husband say they once had "great health coverage...except it was illegal." They live in New York, and the insurance was in Virginia. "Let us purchase healthcare coverage across state lines."

She feels that businesses as small as hers don't have a voice--"The mom and pop store on the corner. The dry cleaner down the street. The restaurant in the strip mall. The CPA that services them. All regular folks trying to make a living while contributing to society and the economy."

Still, you can't keep a good American entrepreneur down.

"We will continue...we do what needs to be done," Markowsky says. "We are of pioneer stock."

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