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Small businesses make a difference

In Missouri, 99.4 percent of businesses qualify as small businesses – and they employ nearly half of all Missourians. But those are just numbers.

Their economic impact is nearly immeasurable.

In this issue, we celebrate the small businesses in our area in ways that extend beyond the numbers  – and hope that you will join us.

Local businesses, as they say, are the difference between being somewhere and being anywhere. If you drive from here to Kansas City, you will pass dozens of shopping centers anchored by indiscriminate Target, Kohl’s or Walmart stores. But you know you are home when you see that pickup truck with the family name proudly emblazoned along the side, or the restaurant named after grandma, or the sign of realtor who has been working the area for decades and knows the price of every home that is sold.

If you read through the business profiles featured in this issue, you will see stories of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. You will see the pride of generations of local families. Most of them will never grace the pages of the Wall Street Journal, but we are proud to showcase them here. They are our clients, and our friends, and our fellow citizens.

In the past, we have worked to inform you about the numbers behind local businesses. We have told you that far more of your dollar spent with a local business stays in the local community. At times, in the age of Amazon and Apple, that argument seems almost antiquated. But in reality, it is timelier than it ever has been.

Let us not focus on the numbers this time. Instead, let us focus on the human beings. Our sales department and journalists spend most of their time out and about, talking, listening and learning about the people who make up our community. Now, we challenge our readers to do the same. The challenge is simple.

Over the next month, stop into a locally owned business. Whether you buy something or not is completely up to you, but ask to speak to the owner if he or she is available. Ask them their story. Ask them why they opened here. Ask them what’s their favorite thing about our community.

Most of the time, when a business owner gets to talk about the sheer accomplishment of surviving in this age of Apple and Amazon, their eyes light up. You will be inspired by their stories. Of that, we have no doubt. They are survivors. They are entrepreneurs. They are engaged citizens in the best sense of the word.

They may look tired at first, or frazzled by another long day. They may be concerned that you are trying to sell them something [trust us on this one]. But ask them to tell you their origin story and their face will change and your mind will change – almost certainly for the better.

It is true that you already know everything that you know. The only way to learn more is to engage with other people.

The next 30 days are made up of 43,200 minutes. Take five of them and engage with a local business owner. We promise it will be five minutes well spent.

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