Sarah McDonald - Small Business & The U.S. Senate

Everyone knows that running a small business is hard and that’s why when Sarah, co-owner of Out There Outfitters, was asked to represent small businesses at the U.S. Senate she jumped on the opportunity.

Everyone knows that to stay in business, and to grow your business, you have to increase sales or decrease overhead. That’s why when Sarah had the chance to advocate for reducing one of our largest overhead expenses, credit card transaction fees, she jumped at the chance to lobby for the passing of the Credit Card Competition Act.

Over the past several months, Sarah has been working with the National Retail Federation (NRF) and other business owners to advocate for the passing of the Credit Card Competition Act. 

Sarah has gone to Washington D.C. three times now with the NRF to speak with senators about the bill, doing what they call a fly-in. She is one of the representatives for small businesses in our region, so she’s met with the offices of John Fetterman and Bob Casey from Pennsylvania, Tom Carper and Chris Coons from Delaware, Chuck Schumer from New York, and Cory Booker and Bob Menendez from New Jersey. She’s also met with US Congresswoman for our area, Mary Gay Scanlon, who shops at our store! 

Though perhaps uncommon, this is one concern that brings big box business and small business together. Representatives for Walmart joined the meetings on Sarah’s first trip to D.C., and they were adamant that Sarah and the other small business owners’ voices would be the loudest in the room. There were 5-7 people in each meeting with senators and their staffers, and Sarah was shocked to find that their voices really did carry weight. Small business represents every person in a way that a large corporation like Walmart does not, and the senators really listened and wanted to hear from their constituents on the issue. 

“It made me realize that it is possible to make a difference. To walk down the halls of the Senate building is humbling and empowering at the same time, and then to go in and speak on an issue that you feel really strongly about–it’s very empowering, and it’s not something I thought I’d ever do.” 

If you haven’t heard of the Credit Card Competition Act before now, you’re not alone. Every business that accepts credit cards has to absorb the cost of swipe fees. For each transaction, we pay between 1-3% of the amount to the credit card provider. This may not sound like a lot, but these fees add up and it actually accounts for the second or third largest overhead expense for every business in the U.S. The problem is that there’s no competition as it stands right now, there’s no negotiating or shopping around for a better price, as Visa and Mastercard virtually run the market. For small businesses, especially, this can be crippling. 

The Credit Card Competition Act sounds complex, and it is, but its aim is pretty simple. By disrupting the current control Visa and Mastercard have on dictating swipe fees, the act would create competition and, ultimately, save millions of dollars for business owners and families. Opponents will say that the act will disrupt the market for consumers but a very similar act has already been passed for debit cards and has gone mostly unnoticed by consumers. The act on debit card transactions added a second bank to each debit card, so the fees are competitive. This bill simply proposes the same thing for credit cards. 

Every fly-in includes representatives from all over the US going to speak on the issue, and Sarah has had the opportunity to meet a lot of other like-minded business owners and trendsetters, making connections across the country. The experience of meeting others with similar overhead expense issues gives Sarah and Out There powerful tools and insight to help improve our own business model. 

The size of the issue is clear in the collective effort it’s engendered, and hopefully the vote will reflect this. “The NRF has done incredible work on this issue, and I’m very grateful to them for including me and for all the prep and support as well,” says Sarah. 

On the whole, the experience has been incredibly meaningful, and we’re so proud to have Sarah representing Out There Outfitters in the capital and for continuing to improve the store and make it the best outdoor lifestyle shop that it can be for our customers. It takes a village, and what a fine village we have between the customers and the staff at Out There Outfitters. Thank you for supporting your local small businesses.