Operating in Torrance and surrounding communities like Lomita, the USBA (Unified Small Business Alliance) takes its purpose of “helping out the little guys” to heart. The USBA recognizes the fact that many aspiring business owners are new to the area. Many of these individuals are not familiar in the ways city government dictates local business. As a result these inexperienced new business owners end up taking a wrong turn in the application process. Due to the fact that the correct information is not available to these business owners, city government officials are forced to refuse licenses to the business owners.
The main inspiration for the USBA was to help save money on networking. Some small business owners would spend as much as $5,000 on networking (i.e. events, memberships, etc.), which was a very expensive thing to do. Networking is a very important part of expanding a business, and many businesses had to hold back their networking due to finances. The USBA was created to help these businesses out. Being self-sponsored, events held by the USBA are generally of no charge.
Government regulations can affect small business owners greatly in many different ways. For example, in Torrance, there is a city ordinance that prevents real estate agents from placing open house signs on public property. If the open house is on a side street, signs are only allowed in front of the house, which goes against the desire of those who want to place the sign on the busiest intersection.
The USBA is very open to developing relationships with local business, the state, and federal government. It advocates for the well being of small businesses, which could be as small as home-based businesses that are often “invisible” to city hall which the USBA helps by forming connections between them and city hall. These businesses can struggle due to their size, and some of them do not have business licence as they can not afford it. The USBA helps these businesses be recognized by the government and has even helped kick off 17 companies.
The USBA takes pride in every individual that tries to open businesses and are also proud to help push these individuals into the right direction. There are many people who are apart of the USBA that no longer have companies, but stay to look for new opportunities. Some businesses may fail, but the USBA is there to help guide owners into new directions for their companies. The USBA also helps those who aren’t native speakers find a voice and be recognized by City Hall to apply for a permit or other formalities.
In addition to providing the correct information in bureaucratic navigation, the USBA also stands to make sure these little businesses are not taken advantage of by the opinions of certain government officials. Therefore, the USBA is known for helping minorities, in which new small businesses owners are judged or disregarded because of their race, financial state or inexperience. Simply put, the alliance looks to make sure no one gets left behind in the great web of local politics and businesses. Aurelio Mattucci, founder of the USBA, hopes to solve disputes between the government and these small business owners by providing a sense of fairness and impartiality.
To properly illustrate the goals of the USBA, its founder, Mattucci, tells a story depicting a dissension that occurred between a local small business owner he helped out and the Lomita City Government. In hopes of opening his own showroom, this man put his entire life savings into the project. Right at the beginning, he had made the mistake of constructing his businesses before acquiring a proper business license from Lomita City Hall. Unfortunately, because of this mistake, the application process became more difficult.
However, the man’s business application was denied due to a city plan that had not even been enacted. This unofficial and illegitimate policy ordained that only certain “high-end” businesses were applicable for licence. Although the man had made a simple mistake at first, a municipal official had disregarded his hard work and valid proposal based on an invalid proclamation. Aurelio chose this moment to highlight the realization that demographics arguably play the biggest part in business construction. A business, especially a small one cannot stir up any profit if it's presented to the inappropriate group of people.
Fighting for impartial consideration, Mattucci went to argue the business owner’s point to the government official who had partially treated him. By specifically questioning the government official’s actions, Mattucci was able to help the man open his showroom. Mattucci comments that the trick is , “knowing the system.” In other words, Mattucci argues it is not about “knowing the right people”, it is about using the systems set in place by the government so that every citizen of the country has an equal opportunity to build a business, regardless of size. People must trust in their power of opportunity in the face of the government, local and federal.
In the end, Mattucci and the small business owner succeeded in opening the man’s business. The showroom has currently been operating successfully for several year. In spite of the invaluable help Mattucci provided the old man, the founder of the USBA persists that the USBA’s purpose is not to make money, but rather to help its people.
The USBA is a for-profit company however, and their yearly revenue is obtained from the exhibitions they host, making no more than $30,000 a year. Nevertheless, the alliance does not require any form of fees for food, networking, or membership.
The alliance stresses the need for small businesses to arise in Torrance and other cities for the economy to grow, citing that there is over a million square feet vacant in Torrance, which equates to a large amount of potential job offers lost due to ineffective use of the available space. It also stresses the belief that actions say more than words to truly discover honesty. The alliance aids local politicians in their campaigns on the condition that they will remain supportive of small businesses. The organization aims to help the 13,000 business association lines in Torrance.
Initially, some came to the USBA for the sole purpose of eating for free but the USBA found committed people by finessing down to only coffee and cookies. With dedicated members and policies, the USBA has grown to over 26,000 members.
(Interviewed by Efrain Hernandez and Krischan Jung)
(Originally written by Aleeza Adnan, Adam Gibson, Niccolo Esquivelzeta Sohn. Scribed by Muniza Ahmed and Luke Kim.)