Greg and Kjerstin Klein

Greg and Kjerstin Klein

Willi’s Ski Shop

Pittsburg, PA

As small business owners, husband and wife Greg and Kjerstin Klein are focused on their business. Willi’s is a second-generation, family-owned, specialty ski and snowboard shop with 250 employees and five locations in western Pennsylvania. It’s hard to know what what policies Washington is debating day to day and how they would affect their business. So when the Kleins learned about a Business Forward conference call with the Small Business Administration about Small Business Week, they dialed in to learn more.

After attending multiple conference calls on varying topics, the Kleins came to Washington, DC to offer their experiences with senior Administration officials about how climate change affects their company. There, they learned how large policy initiatives like the Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Agreement would affect climate change, and, ultimately, their ability to stay in business.

“We’re the small business owners that Washington is referring to when they say ‘Main Street.’”

Having been in business for nearly 50 years, the Kleins have concrete data about how winters are changing—they see it in the people visiting their store and their sales year by year. A longer winter means more people likely to rent and buy skis, snowboards, and other goods. A shorter, warmer season means less opportunity and less profit. This is a perspective they share not only with policy makers, but also with their local media. Kjerstin was interviewed by the Public News Service, a member-supported news service in 36 states.

One value they’ve seen in Business Forward is knowing that they are not alone. Business Forward has a network of more than 100,000 business leaders across the country. The Kleins say that meeting many other small business leaders with similar experiences empowered them to get involved.

Greg and Kjerstin on Business Forward and the Issues

Working with other business leaders in Business Forward’s network creates a unified small business voice. Business Forward helps provide the platform, resources, and expertise that help inform and amplify our views as a small business owners.

In any kind of community, whether it’s civic, social or a business community, the health of the community is based on the value of its dialogue. Without respectful discourse, we can’t solve any of the problems we have in the world.

Business Forward provides an open dialogue for the business community to thoughtfully weigh in on government policy. They do an excellent job taking the politics out of the problem, and helping us find ways to solve today’s hurdles from a business perspective.

Many businesses may not want to speak out because they’re worried about turning off a portion of their clientele. But for us, not participating in the policymaking process just wasn’t an option.

Climate change has a concrete effect on our business. It’s not an exaggeration to say that our company, and in turn, the livelihoods of our 250 employees, relies on seasonal snowfall in western Pennsylvania. I hope that sharing this experience with lawmakers will help them act.

We’re the small business owners that Washington is referring to when they say ‘Main Street.’


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