Entrepreneurs make case for reform to U.S. Rep. Heck

Arla Cuddie, owner of Newell Hunt Furniture, advocates for an even playing field between brick-and-mortar and Internet commerce

Staff writerApril 2, 2014 

Jan Finn, left, a home furnishings manufacturing representative, helps Arla Cuddie look through a selection of manufacturing lines on an iPad. Newell Hunt Furniture specializes in selling American-made products.

ANDREW FICKES/HERALD PHOTO

When Arla Cuddie, Nichole Frandanisa and Ashley Salas traveled from east Pierce County to Lacey to visit Congressman Denny Heck last month, they brought unique challenges that face their small businesses.

The women were among 18 female entrepreneurs invited from Thurston, Pierce and Mason counties to be part of an hour-long business roundtable on March 21.

“Since March is Women’s History Month, it made sense to sit down and to listen to some of the women entrepreneurs in the Puyallup area,” Heck said. “Nichole, Ashley and Arla were a real pleasure to meet.”

Cuddie, the owner of Puyallup-based Newell Hunt Furniture, said the experience was enlightening.

“It was cool not knowing the origin behind some of the women going to an arena where everyone had different perspectives,” she said.

Frandanisa, the owner and publisher of Hometown Values Magazine, which represents Puyallup, South Hill, Graham and Orting, said Heck was “really perceptive to the concerns that we had.”

Salas, the owner of Sugarbabies in Sumner, said Heck was intrigued about her concern regarding credit card fraud, which has affected Salas’ Internet sales for the past two years.

“This got worse as major corporations have been compromised,” Salas said. “People steal credit card numbers, and the information is used to buy products off the Internet. And there is no recourse for it. Sugarbabies is on the hook for the loss of the inventory.”

Salas said about 30 percent of her business comes from Internet sales. She delivers baby- and birth-related accessories, as well as clothing and furniture. Heck told Salas he would visit her Sumner-based store this month.

Frandanisa, who purchased the Hometown Values Magazine license in January with her husband, Anthony, said her concern was the push to increase the federal minimum wage.

She said a federal bump to $10.10 wouldn’t negatively affect the small businesses she helps, but some Washington state municipalities want to increase the state minimum wage to $15, and that would hurt small businesses.

“My concern with a minimum wage increase is it would eliminate marketing budgets (at my small business clients),” she said.

Frandanisa focuses on small businesses with 10 employees or fewer. The Hometown Values Magazine is a direct mail marketing vehicle for small businesses who can’t shoulder the entire cost. It allows small businesses to join as a collective and share in the total cost of direct mail marketing, she said.

Frandanisa said there were several other women at the roundtable who voiced similar concerns.

Cuddie’s concern addressed the untaxed Internet sales market.

“There has been no preparation for the tremendous amount of dollars we were losing in Internet sales, and now, 15 years later, we cry because we don’t have money for transportation and education,” Cuddie said. “We’re not taxing consumables on Internet sales, so we are losing millions and billions of dollars.”

Cuddie said she has grown her business during the past 12 years on a model of building relationships with customers and keeping as much tax locally.

“There needs to be an education in consumers that purchasing local helps facilitate our education system, our infrastructure, health and well-being,” she said.

Cuddie said she encourages lawmakers to create an even playing field between brick-and-mortar businesses and Internet commerce.

Andrew Fickes: 253-552-7001 andrew.fickes @puyallupherald.com Twitter: @herald_andrew

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