LAKELAND, Fla. — Experts call small businesses the backbone of our economy, but the results of a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce study found inflation and supply chain disruptions have created some real challenges for them.

What You Need To Know

  • Small businesses are seeing higher costs

  • Politicians on both sides of the aisle are promising to work on inflation

  • Business owner Lisa Kirk says she hopes they follow through

For one Black-owned business along the I-4 corridor, some careful planning is seeing the company through.

Under a beautiful Polk County sky, there are rays of sunshine both outside and inside as Lisa Kirk welcomes a client in a co-working space where she is always trying to keep a clear view of her bottom line.

“It’s personal," she said. "I get to kind of pull some things together to make them go, ‘Oh my God, this is exactly what I wanted.’”

Kirk owns and runs Sunshine Eyes Eyewear, where customers can shop for eyewear online or get customized curated service. On this day she points to her client, Natasha “Penny” Price and says, “She’s given me the colors she wants — the colors she does not want — the styles she likes.”

As she chooses frames based on her customers’ face structure, Kirk said she offers a niche product. 

“You can’t really get this style at the chain stores — this is a unique product," she said. "I’m Lakeland-based and I ship all over the world."

She is a lifelong voter and says there have been some challenges with her products coming from overseas.

“Whew, it’s tough," she said. "That particular part — the shipping has almost doubled at about a 47% increase.”

Those are costs her business has to absorb, and Kirk says there have also been hiccups in the supply chain. 

“It’s no longer a 60, 70-day wait for the product," she said. "But I am able to get it within 30 days now.”

While things are getting better, Kirk said she’s listening to the candidates’ pitches about what they plan to do to help small businesses stay afloat during talks about a recession and inflation.

“It’s a good talk," she said with a chuckle. "We’ll see what happens. I’m definitely listening — I’ve been a voter since I turned 18.”

Kirk said she wants to see those elected follow through.

“I believe that if we could hold candidates accountable — oh my gosh, once they’re in office — the world would be a much better place,” she said.

But for now, Kirk says some very deliberate steps have allowed her small business to thrive. 

“I am one of those folks," she said. "I work and I live and I breathe with the glass half full, and if there is a recession, folks will still need eyewear. Supporting any locally owned business that provides a quality product at a fair price with good customer service is how we overcome inflation. In turn our customers receive, many times, personal service from the business owner not a 800 number from God knows where...small businesses thrive when we build relationships throughout our community."