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HOW SHARING A FRUSTRATION BECAME AN ADVOCACY FOR MICROBUSINESS OWNERS

by Roger Miller, Co-founder and President of Micro Advocates Cooperative.


GENESIS OF AN IDEA

One day last summer I had just finished video recording a seminar at Joule Microbusiness Network and was breaking down my gear. The room had cleared out except for Jackie Menne who was doing her own cleanup since it was her event. We both took a moment to sit and relax. I don’t exactly recall the details of our conversation except something had triggered a brief rant from me, to which Jackie responded with her own.

We were lamenting the plight of the Micro. My rant began with the short phrase, ‘Net 75’. I was disgusted with the larger companies payment policies that truly are financially debilitating to micros like myself. We do our work and do it well, because the client raves about it. Then we submit our bill and don’t see payment for nearly a calendar quarter. It’s ridiculous. I could probably handle it if I had recurring work from the same client. I would likely view it as an inconvenience for a quarter, but after the first check rolls in the rest would follow and I may not think any more of it. However, that just isn’t the case and waiting 75 days after I have put out payments to my suppliers is a travesty. My funding of Fortune 500 companies is insanely outrageous. I can’t fight their lawyers and they simply say they will take their business elsewhere if I don’t like it. I don’t like it.

Now Jackie, not to be outdone by my little rant, pointed out how it is next to impossible for a micro to get a business loan. Instead it is the credit card that gets the exercise, pushing up the cost of doing business. Of course, the credit card companies could care less about voiceless micros. We are low-hanging individual fruit to be picked by extending credit at lurid rates.

As we were talking a light went off and I thought we should do something about this, but I didn’t know what. So I proposed a think tank for micros. I asked her if she knew of anyone who might fit in as mutual think tank consultants to brainstorm on this expensive and annoying set of problems. There was radio silence for about a week and then I received an email saying she had 4 more candidates who were willing to meet on the topic.

We did some research and found there was nothing out there to help micros in Minnesota, or anywhere else and we said a unified ‘Why Not!’ and surged ahead. In fact, there was dispute in the marketplace as to what we were even called*. Our first meeting was in September and by November we had incorporated Micro-Advocates Cooperative in Minnesota and began the process to get a web domain with a .coop extension.

We might be Micro but with 475,000 potential members in Minnesota alone...

That turned out to be another process. Unlike getting a .com or .whatever, .coop is tightly regulated internationally and the overseers had to review our articles of incorporation and bylaws among other details to see if we truly qualified. Being a .coop and part of the international coop movement is a bit of a gauntlet to run. We have done so successfully and in February received our micro.coop designation as well as the right to use the global Co-operative Marque which you will see sprinkled throughout the website.

So here we are today. We are two rants, a think tank, and a global co-op movement removed from just being angry about injustice to doing something. Do something with us. We’re a cooperative movement because when we join forces and work together, we truly are bigger than the sum of our parts. We might be Micro, but with 475,000 potential members in Minnesota alone, we’re actually really, really big!

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