This week's Indie Business Podcast features my interview with Dan Marshall, founder and vice president of the Handmade Toy Alliance (HTA) and co-owner with his wife of PeaPods Natural Toys & Babycare in St. Paul, Minnesota. Dan is a small business advocate who focuses his efforts mainly on the impact on small businesses of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). He has met with Consumer Product Safety Commission staffers and commissioners, rallied in Wash ington, DC and testified on Capitol Hill.
Dan, who once sold retirement plans for a large financial company, and his wife sell as many locally and domestically made products as possible, including bath and body care products. At the beginning of the podcast, Dan shared the story of how he and his wife started their business — an interesting story reflecting the growth of small and family-owned businesses nationwide. During the rest of the show, he shared tips and insights on how you can positively impact public policy as an Indie Business owner.
Get Involved Early. Dan says it's imperative for small companies in all industries to become involved in legislative processes, nationwide and at the state and local level. The earlier you become involved in the lawmaking process, the better chance you have of influencing the outcome. It’s nearly impossible to change something once it becomes law. The time to influence the process is early on, when a bill is in committee and can be changed through the amendment and information sharing process.
- Don't Assume A Bill Is Tailored To A Specific Problem. Dan regrets concluding early on that CPSIA would specifically target a particular problem, and not impose burdens on small companies that were not causing that problem.
For example, when he first heard of the bill, he knew it would require third party testing of toys imported from other countries. He thought that was a good idea, and really didn't investigate much further. Several months later, when it was far later in the process, he discovered that the testing requirements were not just for companies that imported toys, but also for small companies making toys in the USA — and not using any of the components that must be tested for in the legislation.
- Get The Media's Attention. In Dan's experience, lawmakers do not seek out small companies to find out what the impact of legislation would be on tiny companies. They are also understandably hard to catch up with — unless the media is involved. In the podcast, Dan shares exactly how he used the power and leverage of the media at well attended press conference at his retail store.
- Stories. In addition to the media, the most effective way to get a lawmaker's attention is to tell the stories of his or her constituents. They can overlook a lot of things, but they can't overlook the real life experiences of the people who vote for them.
- Join Industry Trade Groups. Dan started HTA so that he could organize people like him into a cohesive group that could speak with one voice on the issues. He suggests that every small and independent business owner join an established trade group, or even start one as he did, so that the very small companies participating in that industry have an organized way to make their stories and positions known.
Question: What do you think of Dan's advice? How are you positively impacting public policy as a small business owner, in your hometown or at the national level?
Best and success,