Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called it a “leap of faith.”
Carol DiCarlo, owner of the Cheshire Equestrian Center, had left a career in the medical field to pursue her own business, taking the “leap” that all such entrepreneurs brave — the chance that their venture won’t be successful. DiCarlo opened her store in Cheshire with no opportunity to glance into the future, and the odds were not in her favor.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 22% of small businesses and start-ups survive their first year in operation, and 30% fail by their second year. In the end, while 600,000 new businesses open each year dreaming of success and sustainability, only 25% are open for 15 years or more.
Those are daunting odds, ones DiCarlo faced head-on, as did Andrew Zeppa, owner and founder of Element 119, who admits to being a self-taught chemical engineer who opened his business out of his garage. The company has gone on to find that often-elusive success, expanding from Thomaston into Cheshire and, it appears, hoping to expand even further.
Blumenthal visited Cheshire on Monday to recognize the two businesses, commending each for their “ingenuity and risk-taking,” but while Connecticut’s senior U.S. Senator was speaking about these local establishments, he might as well have been speaking about all small businesses and start-ups in the state.
The major corporations drive much of the national discussion when it comes to the economy, for understandable reasons. They employ the most people, provide wide-ranging services, and impact the stock market. But without small businesses, and entrepreneurs such as DiCarlo and Zeppa, the backbone of the economy would snap.
The U.S. Small Business Administration estimates that in 2022 approximately 61 million Americans were employed by a small business, accounting for 46.4% of all employees in the nation. With nearly half the country’s workforce punching into the time clock of a start-up or small establishment, their success, not just their survival, is crucial to a healthy economic ecosystem.
That’s why ensuring that Connecticut is a hospitable environment for current and future business owners is so vital.
Statistics from Data USA and U.S. Small Business Profiles indicate that there are approximately 350,000 small businesses in Connecticut, accounting for 99.4% of all businesses in the state. Yet, a 2022 CNBC survey ranked the state 39th in the nation when it comes to being business-friendly. Diving deeper into those rankings, Connecticut came in 45th for the cost of doing business, 47th in economy, and 39th in infrastructure.
The state did fare better in other areas, including being ranked 14th and 17th in the life, health and inclusion category, while coming in 25th in innovation and technology. Still, it is clear that the state must continue to improve everything from its infrastructure to its tax rates and spending habits in order to officially shed its negative business image, even if the reputation isn’t totally deserved.
The state has a lot going for it, whether it be an beautiful coastline or its proximity to major U.S. cities, most notably New York to the south and Boston to the north. And Connecticut provides an attractive place for both families seeking quiet and safe suburbs in which to live and young adults seeking the excitement and cultural experience of residing in a more urban setting. There are sports to enjoy, art to admire, and history that dates back to well before the U.S. was even a country.
There’s every reason to believe that someone born in Connecticut, or someone arriving to attend one of its many high-ranking institutions of higher learning, would want to stay in Connecticut for life. But leaders must make sure the state is affordable and that risk-takers such as DiCarlo and Zeppa are supported, not inhibited. The two Cheshire businesses are success stories, the kind the state needs more of.