By Thayne Shaffer, President and Chief Executive Officer
Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in an event sponsored jointly by America First and the Las Vegas Raiders at the stunning new Allegiant Stadium. The gathering was held to recognize the finalists in the inaugural Raiders Small Business Showcase Presented by America First Credit Union, which highlights outstanding contributions to our communities by small businesses.
Over the course of the evening, I was able to speak with many impressive small business owners and see the sizable and varied impact they have on their communities. This year’s grand-prize winner was Felicia Parker, the owner of Any Occasion Baskets. Despite abruptly losing a majority of her business when the pandemic struck, Felicia and Any Occasion Baskets decided to utilize the business to buoy others where they could and give back to the community and people they serve. During the interruption, Felicia began providing gift baskets to first responders, healthcare providers, and other front-line workers who were laboring under intense pressure to help others make it through the crisis. I was profoundly touched by her story and thrilled to be a part of honoring her efforts.
As the showcase’s winner, Felicia and her business were awarded a single-season sponsorship with the Raiders worth more than $100,000, which includes signage inside Allegiant Stadium during Raiders home games, professionally produced radio spots, and digital promotions across Raiders.com and the Raiders mobile app. I’m proud of America First’s support of small businesses and appreciate working with a partner as influential as the Las Vegas Raiders to help showcase these small but integral organizations.
October is National Women’s Small Business Month, and I couldn’t let it pass without taking the chance to recognize and celebrate the female entrepreneurs and women-owned and -led businesses that are such a vital part of our economy and communities. At the heart of just about every thriving community in our country, you’ll find at least two essential elements: strong women and strong small businesses. So many of the women who own and operate small businesses share their passion, perspectives, and leadership, and as they do, they elevate everyone and everything around them to greater heights and new opportunities.
When I started working at America First in 1987, only 22% of small businesses in the United States were owned by women. However, in the 34 years since, that number has nearly doubled, and the rate at which women are starting new businesses is twice that of the national average of all businesses being started.
I hope that during this month and beyond, you’ll join me in supporting women’s small businesses. One of the best ways you can do that is by buying the products and services those businesses offer and then sharing your positive experience with others, especially through your favorite social media platforms. And if you own, operate, or are thinking about starting a small business, our expert Business Services team would love to help you take advantage of the many great resources that are available to small and women-owned businesses. My sincerest thanks to all of the women who build and inspire our communities, and to each one of you for being a member of this wonderful union of families, neighbors, coworkers, businesses, and friends.