Big Business Seeks to Co-opt Small Business Brand



What are the incentives for companies like Starbucks, with their “Create Jobs for USA” program to initiate big efforts on behalf of small business?


Call me a skeptic, but when I found out about a small business grant announcement called “Mission Small Business” from Living Social and Chase Bank, I smelled a rat. What are the incentives for companies like Starbucks, with their “Create Jobs for USA” program to initiate big efforts on behalf of small business? Now American Express is partnering with Facebook on “Big Break for Small Business.” Are you starting to see the trend here? I set out to find out the true benefits and missions behind these companies and their wish to lend a hand to small business.

On Starbucks’ “Create Jobs for USA” website I found the following tweet prominently displayed from their twitter feed:

elucas25 You’re going to drink coffee, so go to@Starbucks & help create @jobsForUSA. Chk out their new Indivisible Collection.

This is nothing but a marketing campaign in sheeps’ clothing. Starbucks, a leader in low paying barista jobs, sets up a foundation where people are asked to donate $5 AND purchase their “Indivisible Collection”, merchandise that is thematically all American red, white and blue. So now you can head into Starbucks and give yourself a patriotic pat on the back for buying a cup of joe.

Looking further, Starbuck’s Jobs For USA co-sponsors are Google Offers and Citi Bank. Their website states that Small Business is responsible for 65% of job creation in the past 15 years. No one can discount the wonderful success stories shared on their website. While these are great efforts, they’re only a drop in the bucket and not the systemic change necessary to truly support communities and the small businesses that do provide a majority of jobs in this country.

Can the number of jobs created by Jobs for USA exceed the number of jobs lost when Starbucks strategically locates next door to mom and pop coffee shops? Many of these small coffee shops provide a decent living to the owners, managers and valued baristas and are directly impacted by Starbucks insatiable growth strategy.

Even more disturbing is Living Social and Chase Bank’s “Mission Small Business.” This classic Social Media traffic drive requires contestants to register their business and recruit 250 votes on behalf of their business. Those businesses that receive 250 votes will then qualify for consideration of up to $250K in Grants. 2-3 businesses will ultimately receive the grants. Yes, that’s a lot of effort to drive traffic to Living Social, for very low odds of being accepted for the grant. Not to mention that Living Social sets Small Businesses up with offers that require businesses to offer deep discounts in hopes of attracting a large number of new customers. Businesses then split the sales of these offers with Living Social, often leaving the business with one-time, deal chasing customers with sales of losing margins. These offers have proven detrimental to many small businesses. Mission Small Business gives Living Social an opportunity to clean up it’s image with small businesses. While Living Social has lured businesses into deals that negatively impact small businesses bottom line, Living Social enjoys a nice profit with each deal they put together.

Living Social’s parent company, Amazon, puts the squeeze on mom and pops by offering goods far below MSRP. Additionally they incentivize customers to shop brick and mortar stores as Amazon’s showroom, using their smart phone app to purchase goods directly at their site.

Are these really the companies we trust to generously work to give grants to small businesses?

Mission Small Business, Jobs for USA and Big Break for Small Business are all designed to improve the images of the company sponsors especially now, when “Small Business” is becoming a brand of it’s own. Shopping local and supporting “Small Business” has transcended being the right thing to do; now it’s the trendy thing to do. Big banks and big companies have been working to co-opt the “Small Business” brand and now under the guise giving small businesses a leg up, they are hopping on the Small Biz bandwagon, improving their image while amassing valuable information about businesses and the people who support them. For more info on the data mining of all those who apply and support applicants Mission Small Business see:

Small businesses need financing. Citi Bank and Chase could be loosening their coffers and giving out actual loans, giving more businesses opportunities. Instead their partnering with big business in providing a handful of grants for their own PR portfolios

So, beware and be informed before jumping aboard the feel good bandwagon of supporting Starbucks, Living Social and the like especially, if you work in a small business!

Sarah Shaoul