Vera and Alla can chuckle when they read this blog.Despite their Marxist economic education, they have managed to wrestle with capitalism and emerge victorious.Their business acumen and know-how is joined with their strategic and logistical thinking prowess. Leslie and I can look to our family for business models aplenty—our great-uncle, our dad, our brother. We had no pretensions of creating a publishing empire when we founded Salt Mine Press, but, then, we didn't expect it to demand so much investment of our time and money.We suffer from an all too common malady--the small business blues.
When we formed Salt Mine Press, it was fun to create the name based on our dad's daily farewell, "I'm off to the salt mines!" Then the fun ended. We knew we needed help every step of the way to comply with the web of local, state, and federal law.
Wells Fargo Bank shepherded us through our first encounter with the State of Minnesota. Even with their help in applying to the Minnesota Secretary of State for our assumed name (which sounded very shady to us), we goofed.I have just spent about three weeks untangling that problem.
Owning a small business meant learning a new lexicon of abbreviations.Soon we were applying for an EIN with help from our CPA. Again, with the help of the professionals, we goofed on that form, too. We're still working on ironing that out with our CPA.
And then came the sales tax tango.We were aware we had to pay Minnesota sales tax on books we sold ourselves.No problem, we thought.We each can wield a calculator. The sales tax is 6.875%. Simple, right? But, wait! Each nine digit zip code has a different tax rate so we have to track where we sell each book by zip code and calculate the rate. Ugh. And then there's the form. One would think that two women with advanced degrees could decode a tax form. It proved to be more complex than applying for a Russian visa. We needed a CPA for that task, too. Another ugh.
I'll only tell you it's been grueling to file state and federal income tax especially when our expenses exceed our income. As you might expect, we need a CPA for that task as well. "How is your book doing?" is a familiar question from fans, friends, and acquaintances. For our CPA, it's been very profitable. For us, the financial end is more "oy" than "profit ahoy!"
We have developed an empathy reservoir for small businesses and we salute all those who embark and sail the murky waters of endless regulations and forms. Fortunately, we do not have to confront hands extended for bribes or Russian Mafia attacks like Vera. Unlike Alla, we don't have to learn a new language, new technology, and new culture.To counter the small business blues, Leslie and I focus on the joy we feel in sharing Vera and Alla's lives and hearing the stories of our readers. But, if only those government forms and tangled laws could encourage small businesses, we would all be stronger for it.
A musical aside--- Howard Bursen's song, "Small Business Blues" was playing in my head as I wrote. Sung by Ronnie Gilbert, it's a musical editorial slamming Reagonomics which has nothing to do with our business woes, but the melody makes me happy as I work on Salt Mine Press business .
You can listen on youtube.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UR5WSUvaIE)