American business: reimagined

Most products and services we purchase are not requirements of human survival. In other words, they are luxuries to make our lives easier, increase our quality of life (which is perfectly fine), or we buy things for vanity. The problem is not so much our obsession with buying “stuff”, rather, it is that when an entrepreneur lives in a different location other than the customer’s local community it causes an economical ripple to occur. The very moment a customer pays an entrepreneur is the same moment the overall value of that particular community is reduced.

Let’s say a community has a combined value of $1,000 (just an example). A community member buys a product for $100 from someone who does not live in the community. The combined value of the community is now reduced to $900. If the product is not sustainable, and it gets thrown away after short-term use then the value of the community is reduced even more. A city employee is paid to dispose of the trash. A city truck is owned, insured, and filled with gasoline in order to transport the trash. Granted, not every product follows this path. However, only one product has to go through the process in order for it to have a negative impact on the total value of the community.

We, the customer, willingly transfers our wealth (or lack thereof) to people and corporations who most likely will never make a purchase in our local community. It is not a secret that less than 1% of our population owns a majority of the wealth. It is because you and I give our hard-earned money to them hand-over-fist.

This social problem led me to build a solution for my local community. The model can easily be scaled to other cities as well. Princeton Boutique is a local e-commerce mall where all the local business owners are able to sell their products and services in a central location. This creates more exposure for all businesses and it makes it a bit easier for our residents to buy local when they buy online.

The economy was successful many, many years ago because it ran on local community-based businesses. I could walk up and down main street to buy my groceries, get my vacuum fixed, look at new sofas, and any other product or service. Once corporations put small businesses out of business it changed the game forever. In the past, when I bought a vacuum from Bob’s Vacuum located 0.5 miles from my home it meant that the money I spent would still be circulating back into my local community. Bob would eventually buy groceries, get his shoes shined, buy a television, and so on.

Most small businesses today are service-based businesses. This is also changing, though. Tech startups are getting smarter, and are building products that provide services to customers. Generally, we buy our products from corporations, franchises, and Amazon. Think about all the money that is spent on a daily basis through the internet. We are literally handing over all the money that exists in the economy to a small group of corporations. Then, when nobody has any money we start asking for increases in the minimum wage and we blame everyone else for our problems. When, in reality, the only reason we ended up here is because we, the people, may have a made improper decisions when we chose to buy from Walmart instead of the local shops in town. Convenience. Why spend a full day walking up and down main street paying high prices when I can sit on my couch and do all my shopping without missing an episode of our favorite reality TV shows. Perhaps the increase in reality TV is because we, the people, do not live the same outgoing and sociable lives we once did. Technology has an isolating effect that takes place when a person mistakes human connection for online communities. The two have similar features, but very different benefits. One lacks the emotional fulfillment received from meaningful, in-person interaction. Reality TV seems to meet that emotional need for many people I know. It is far too easy to live vicariously through the celebrities, duck hunters, and average Joe’s who have video cameras following them around town. Thank goodness our DVRs can record multiple shows at once and save hundreds of hours of shows just to make sure we never miss a beat.

I eventually would like to have children. The problems that exist today are going to be much worse if all the entrepreneurs pick up and leave from their communities. We need you. We need all of you. I am not implying corporations are horrible people and they are to blame. Corporations will have their place in the New Economy. They have earned it because they kicked ass in the old economy. The game was profit-driven capitalism. They won.

Perhaps in the New Economy, corporations can stick to the global markets. That will give our up and coming students, young people, and unemployed populations the opportunity to cultivate their own American small businesses and social startups.

Contrary to popular belief, it is actually quite easy to start a business nowadays. Keep in mind, I majored in sociology and never took a business class. The hard part is building a business that solves a social problem. This is called social entrepreneurship, or a social enterprise, or what I like to call it, a social startup. I mention this because in order to have the greatest impact with this innovation we must take note of all the ailments of our existing nation. Inequality, hunger, poverty, unemployment, debt, etc. These are problems that require immediate solutions. This is where I connect the dots. We are about to witness a renaissance in new business growth. Instead of doing the same thing which landed us where we are now, the focus of new businesses will be not see who can generate the most wealth. That model creates inequality by design. Someone always loses. It is a fact. You either get the high paying job or you lose to someone else. Rather, the focus of new businesses will be to figure out profitable business models that solve the list of social problems I mention above.

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