By Michelle Reese


For 14 years, Sammy Haggar worked at his family-owned business, Air One Transport.

The company was part of DHL’s freight delivery team. But then DHL left the domestic U.S. market and bought the family out.

“Everyone in the family went and did something different,” Haggar, 34, recalls.

But Haggar wasn’t ready to start working for someone else. He didn’t seek out a new job.

He sought out a new plan.

In October 2010, Haggar started Socially Locally, which offers deals to participants through emails and its website. Think “Groupon,” but for locally owned businesses.

“I didn’t think about getting another job. … I knew I wanted to work in my own business somehow, someway and was very intrigued by where technology is going and social media in general,” he said. “It never really was an option. It was something I wanted to do. I just had to put together.”

David Drennon, vice president of marketing and business development for the Arizona Small Business Association, said the tough economy has made many others think just like Haggar.

“Since the start of the recession we’ve seen the number of inquiries skyrocket. They’ve easily doubled per month,” Drennon said.

ASBA works with entrepreneurs as the start up their companies, but it’s hard to say how many have actually followed through with their business plans, Drennon said.

“It’s one thing to have the idea of, ‘I want to start a business.’ Then there’s the reality of ‘what type of equity might be needed to go in,’ ” he said.

One indication that small businesses are taking off is a report from Intuit Inc.: According to the company, Arizona is leading the nation in jobs in the small business sector.

Small companies contract with Intuit to process their payrolls.

Intuit reports companies in Arizona with less than 20 employees grew 0.5 percent in April. The nationwide average was 0.3 percent.

“Small business employment is showing continued strength,’’ said Susan Woodward, an economist with Sand Hill Econometrics, who worked with Intuit to come up with the figures.

Haggar is one example of the types of small businesses popping up, Drennon said.

“The larger picture is when you think of small business in this state … a good 40 percent to 50 percent of that is actually sole proprietor.”

In other words, a lot of people are becoming independent contractors.

Peli Fotu started Mesa-based Visual Genius Design in 2008 when his previous contracting work in the homebuilding and retirement arenas went south. Visual Genius puts together marketing plans, websites and advertising, graphics and more.

“It was a survival-of-the-fittest kind of thing,” he said of his decision. “I decided to start my own company and here we are. It’s going great. We’re keeping busy. We’re not filthy rich but we’re keeping alive.”

Fotu hires contractors to do work he doesn’t take care of, even administrative.

“One thing I’ve noticed, more and more people are working toward that situation. It’s almost where everybody has their own business and they’re working project to project,” he said. “Nobody who works with me ever wants to work in an office. They like the freedom. As long as they get the work done, I don’t care where they work. It’s great for me. I don’t have to have a lot of overhead or things that come with that. And all get what we need to get out of it.”

Like Fotu, Haggar hires contractors to help him with Socially Locally. One company he works with is Total Financial Network.

Started by longtime friends Chris Vincent and Reed Clarke, both of Chandler, the company offers a number of different services, from Internet and social media marketing to business development and credit card processing.

“We’ve seen businesses start and launch, go from doing zero to doing $50,000 a month,” Vincent said.

Their clients include everything from health and wellness businesses to female clothing boutiques, a candle manufacturer and a gift shop.

“We see lots and lots more people going on their own doing their own things,” Clarke said.

It’s not just the little companies hiring contract employees.

“Companies are increasingly utilizing contract or temporary employees to put their foot in the water,” said Mark Staudohar, president of Accent Hiring Group. “Businesses are starting to see a slight pick up in business, but they’re not certain about hiring someone.”

So temporary or contract employees are being uses in all types of businesses, from legal to medical to finance and accounting to technical firms.

“It runs the gamut,” he said.

A lot of companies have gone through “tremendous layoffs” the last three years, Staudohar said.

“They’re trying to reposition themselves and the only way they can do that is by having good talent,” he said. “People will pick up one month or two months of work and a lot of times they can find a full time home there.”

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