Business Licenses Drop 10 Percent

By Andy Meek

Whether the reason is access to capital or lack of customer demand, the result is the same: fewer entrepreneurs are filing business licenses in Shelby County.

That’s according to third quarter totals from the Shelby County Clerk’s office, which show a decline of 10 percent in the number of business licenses filed in the July to September period (1,435) compared to the same period in 2011 (1,592), according to The Daily News Online,

The third quarter 2012 number, however, was more than the 1,397 business licenses filed in the second quarter of this year.

The numbers provide a glimpse into the state of commerce in the county from a number of vantage points. Those totals, for example, include filings from out of state by entrepreneurs who intend to start a business here.

They also include business license renewals, in addition to licenses for new ventures.

Robert Staub, a local small-business consultant, said one problem is money.

“I believe one of the main reasons for the drop in business licenses is access to capital,” Staub said. “Some might argue it is because of a weak economy or that it’s an election year. I would argue that there were plenty of properly capitalized new businesses that did well this past year under those conditions.

“The problem with starting a business over the past year, whether you were looking for a $10,000 business loan from a relative or a $300,000 business loan from your bank, there is just less funding to go around. Which, in the end, means fewer new businesses launching in our area.”

Last week, author, business coach and strategy expert Michael Synk hosted a workshop during which he went straight at another problem that might keep some ventures from getting off the ground. Too many of them, he would suggest, have a lack of strategic focus.

Attendees of his workshop, which was sponsored in part by The Daily News, walked away with a one-page strategic plan that contained actionable execution items.

The third quarter business license totals included licenses for Minglewood Hall, the existing Midtown entertainment and commercial complex where audiences come to see live music and where some operations – like the interactive creative company Bigfish – have their office.

A license was filed during the third quarter for the “Apple Store of Memphis,” in addition to Panda Express. The former is the retail arm of the tech giant that has an existing presence in Memphis, and the latter is a quick-service food concept that entered the Memphis retail market in recent weeks.

The Chinese restaurant chain opened a store in Cordova in front of Walmart Supercenter. That Panda Express marks parent company Panda Restaurant Group Inc.’s 1,500th store and first in West Tennessee.

Other business licenses that were filed include one for Bella Café at the Pink Palace. The Pink Palace natural and cultural history museum announced a year ago it was seeking proposals for a new operator for a restaurant in the east lobby, with food services for families, school children, senior citizens and other visitors to have a meal, snack, or beverage.

Also, Redbox – the business that rents DVDs via user-operated kiosks – filed half a dozen business licenses in Memphis in the third quarter.

Redbox files the licenses for each kiosk because they essentially are tiny video rental businesses, similar to the old brick-and-mortar model. Redbox, however, crams its selections into a space equivalent to about 10 square feet.