Occupy Wall Street: How Are Small Business Owners Reacting?

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement has gained tremendous press recently, as more and more protesters take to the streets across the nation and demand economic change. Depending on who you ask, the protests are being received in widely different ways: while many Americans feel that they serve as a good first step in what should ultimately result in changed fiscal policies and heavier government regulation over the economy, others feel that the protesters are wasting their time and that their demands are too unclear.

Small business owners also have mixed views on the protests and whether or not they will do anything to effect change. According to a Facebook poll asking business owners whether or not they support the protests, the majority (51%) of participants claimed that “there are better ways to effect change.” Many small business owners who have built their own businesses from scratch feel that the protesters don’t have a right to complain until they attempt to start their own business and therefore create more jobs and employ themselves. It is hard to identify with protesters who claim that there are no jobs being created when “9 percent of the laid-off [have] taken matters into their own hands” and created a life of entrepreneurship (entrepreneur.com). Also, small business owners who disagree with the protests empathize with the business owners who are being “hurt” by the protests – perhaps by staff members who have essentially relinquished their jobs for the sake of remaining at the protests. Some claim that the protests are affecting nearby businesses by scaring off potential customers who want to steer clear of the conflict.

Others feel that their socioeconomic status as small business owners puts them on a level playing field with the protesters, in that their economic interests are in line with what the protesters are demanding. Furthermore, others support the protest because their businesses were deeply affected by the recession and they view the protesters as similar to the clients that they lost during the tough economic times. Similarly, they believe that the notion that those complaining about the lack of jobs should simply start their own business doesn’t seem to account for how difficult it can be to raise money for a small business. Other supporters point to the fact that all of the commotion surrounding the protests is driving much more foot traffic to the small businesses who are located within the vicinity of the protests.