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After serving on the board for more than 10 years, Fairfield resident Cookie Driscoll took over this year as Board Chair for the National Small Business Association.

The nonpartisan organization with more than 65,000 members advocates in Washington, D.C., for small business interests and has been around for more than 75 years.

Driscoll isn't the first woman to hold the position, but she said the board is made up mostly men. The organization was originally called the National Business Men's Association.

"That's obviously not the case anymore," Driscoll said.

Driscoll said the Board Chair for the association serves a one-year term, "to keep ideas fresh year after year."

One of Driscoll's first initiatives in the new position is to develop the National Leadership Council to find dedicated small business owners in every voting district in the country.

Federal legislation over the past few years has hindered small businesses, Driscoll said, and more and more owners have been forced to close their doors. Driscoll's association has been suggesting legislation to improve entrepreneurs' situations with bipartisan support, but "nothing quite gets done," she said.

"This Congress doesn't get much done," Driscoll said. "I always say that if I ran my business like they're running this country, I would've been out of business a long time ago."

Driscoll started her business, Cookie's, with just $500 and a passion for horses. Wanting to display that passion on her vehicle, she created a line of car decals with clear backgrounds that took off, she said.

"I'm lucky," Driscoll said. "I found a way to make money doing what I love."

Driscoll starting getting involved with the NSBA because she wanted to ensure others could keep doing what they love, she said.

"Small business owners are our own worst enemy," Driscoll said. "Legislators keep throwing stuff at us because we're creative and figure out ways to survive and keep surviving."

Driscoll said one of her goals this year is to form a stronger alliance with big businesses.

"We need each other's voices," she said. "We provide products to the big businesses, so if we shut down, that hurts them."

A lot of "crazy" legislation gets enacted without much public knowledge, Driscoll said, including a recent National Labor Relations Board rule that states business owners can't require their employees to be courteous to each other or customers.

"If you fire an employee for being rude to a customer, they can sue you because of that rule," Driscoll said. "That's insane."

Driscoll and her organization are working to make sure rules such as this are resolved before they end up affecting small businesses.

"It's easy to find problems," she said. "The tough part is coming up with solutions, and that's what we're here for."

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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