Vest Pocket is a collaborative association of Utah’s locally-owned small businesses, born out of necessity in 1997. The issue that sparked the first movement, were local parking ordinances that were put into place making parking very difficult for certain small business owners and their customers. Together, those businesses banded together and fought to make changes that would accommodate the needs of the businesses, the consumer, and the city.
Current President, Doug Burton (Owner of SaltWorks) has been involved with Vest Pocket for several years, having first served as a board member in 2015. Burton was ‘recruited’ by another small business owner who was already involved, which is what Vest Pocket is all about, mentoring and collaboration.
“My business had been involved with the Salt Lake Chamber in the early 2000’s, which provided great networking opportunities, but with Vest Pocket, we felt a real connection because we were all small business owners,” Burton said. “We also share a common ideology about life, not political, but one that says, supporting things in your local neighborhood businesses and your local community is the lifeblood of what makes a great society.”
Current Vice President, Rebecca Yates (owner of Ark Insurance Solutions), was looking for more opportunities to learn about political advocacy when she joined Vest Pocket in 2016. Yates has a daughter with Autism and advocating for an education bill got her up on Capitol hill for the first time.
“I have always been passionate about small business, I have grown as a business owner and a person, having been involved with Vest Pocket,” Yates said. “Being able to set up a series on addressing the mental health of business owners, where studies have shown that they are under the same levels of stress similar to combat veterans, has been a great opportunity. We need more members so we can really start effecting change.”
‘Vest Pockets’ mission is to build a stronger independent business community in Utah through advocacy, education, and social connections.’ They accomplish this by holding various educational workshops throughout the year, most recently, “My Business is Out to Get Me” –where experts presented information on how to cope with the stresses of being a small business owner. In addition, members of the advocacy committee pushed for tax reform on Business Personal Property Tax at the State Capital in November.
“I began working on sales tax and e-fairness about 6 years ago and after a particular meeting, Scott Pynes (current owner of Cactus and Tropicals) approached me after and asked me to join Vest Pocket, and one thing led to another,” Carol Elliott, member of the advocacy committee stated. “I think advocacy is the missing element for local small businesses, they have no voice and there is a lot of things that go on at the legislature, and at city councils, and the county commissions that affect small business every day, whether it is a signage issue or taxes. After a lot of work, at least now, Amazon is paying sales tax in Utah.”
Betsy Burton, owner of The King’s English Bookshop is also one of the founders of Vest Pocket. She, along with David Nimkin, founder of the Utah Microenterprise Fund, formed Local First Utah in 2005. Vest Pocket and Local First Utah continue to work in cooperation on concerns of shared interest that aim at the betterment of all things having to do with local businesses in Utah.