Press Release
July 11, 2022

Protect Democracy to Protect Economy Say MI Small Businesses

First campaign event announced

(Detroit, MI)— A new Michigan Business for Democracy collaborative launched today to raise the trusted voice of small business on the need to protect our democracy, which is vital for our economy. The collaborative will elevate the issue to be one of concern to voters in November and call for Congressional action to stop the nation from falling into autocracy.

Leading the collaborative are the Southeast Michigan Sustainable Business Forum (SMSBF) and People First Economy (PFE).  Over 880,000 businesses in Michigan have fewer than 20 employees and represent 97% of all businesses in the state making them a powerful voice.

“The freedom to choose with whom we do business is no different than the freedom to choose who will lead us,” said Mike Shesterkin Executive Director of SMSBF. “The former is called a free market and the latter is called a democracy. Business leaders ought to do everything they can to protect voting access, voting rights and the collective will of the voters, because without a democracy, there’ll be no free market.”

A functioning, free and fair democracy is an indispensable tool to maintaining the nation’s vibrant entrepreneurial economy at the state and national levels.  Michigan businesses believe bold changes must be made to protect American democracy, and businesses can lead the way.

“At People First Economy, we believe that small businesses thrive when our democracy thrives,” said Hanna Schulze, President of PFE. “Safe and secure elections are the bedrock of a thriving democracy. Small businesses support measures that ensure our employees and team members can vote without intimidation or interference, regardless of what party, issue or candidate they may support. And we strongly denounce the incessant and baseless attacks on our democracy and elections by those who seek to undermine faith in our democratic institutions and subvert the will of the voters.”

To protect democracy, which was attacked at the Congressional level in 2021 and by state legislatures passing laws to nullify local elections, the collaborative is calling on Congressional candidates to support reforming the Electoral Count Act as well as passage of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. The collaborative will inform the public on where Congressional candidates stand on these bills.

“Business leaders who truly appreciate the benefits of free markets should pay attention to what’s happening to our democracy,” said Shesterkin. “If we continue to see voting rights and voter access curtailed, only those in power will decide who runs a business and who doesn’t. A vibrant, free market starts with a healthy democracy.”

The Michigan Business for Democracy collaborative will hold a virtual one-hour forum on July 27 that will include a presentation by Mairin Macaluso, of Leadership Now, who will cover why business leaders should speak up for voting rights and access. Registration is open to all business owners.

“Small business owners know what happens under autocracy and one-party rule,” said Frank Knapp Jr., Director of the Business for Democracy national campaign for the American Sustainable Business Network. “Protecting democracy and our economy is on the ballot this November. We will make our voices heard.”

The MI Business for Democracy collaborative is the 6th state collaborative launched this month.  The other states are CA, AZ, OH, PA, and NC.

To learn more about Business for Democracy, visit

Available for interviews:

Mike Shesterkin
Executive Director
Southeast Michigan Sustainable Business Forum
Detroit, MI

Hanna Schulze
People First Economy
Grand Rapids, MI

National Media Contact:
Frank Knapp

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