Growing up on a family farm, I know firsthand the challenges of running a small business…challenges that only seem to be growing for today’s entrepreneurs.

Every elected official in Washington, including President Obama, has been talking about helping small businesses feel confident enough to invest in their companies and hire more people. But unfortunately, many elected officials who make policy decisions that affect small businesses have never worked in the private sector or led a small business for a day in their lives.

During our nation’s unemployment crisis, I’m glad that everyone now agrees that small business growth will have the most aggressive impact on hiring. Small Businesses create seven of every ten new jobs and employ over half of the nation’s workforce; which is why it is vitally important that government supports, instead of burdens, America’s job creators.

On Tuesday, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) released their small business optimism index report for August, and sadly it confirmed what many have feared throughout the majority of this year. The Optimism Index dropped for the sixth consecutive month. This report proves that American small business owners are very pessimistic and uncertain about the future.

Small business owners aren’t optimistic because they are facing low consumer demand, on top of tax increase threats and regulatory burdens from Washington. Week after week, the theme from our hearing table is that small businesses are being suffocated with over-regulation, crippling taxation and economic uncertainty.

The testimony that witnesses provide at our hearings is an important part of our legislative process, however, not every small business has the opportunity to travel to Washington DC to appear before the Committee. That’s why we are launching a brand new interactive online community today called ‘Small Biz Open Mic.’ This interactive online community will give small business owners from all across America the ability to communicate directly with the House Small Business Committee at smallbusiness.house.gov/openmic.

The ‘Small Biz Open Mic’ website will be an exciting new media forum that encourages blog-type comments and testimonials from small business owners across America regarding government policies, and allows participants to comment on Committee news, legislation, hearings, and news stories that relate to small business growth and development. Comments from participants about legislation and policies that impact small businesses will be used to help the Committee conduct its official business.

America’s nearly 30 million small businesses are the engines of job creation and the lifeblood of our nation’s economy. Simply put – our nation’s economy will only go as far as our small businesses will take it.

To do our jobs well we need to hear directly from small companies about how government is hurting or helping their business. With their help, we can make certain that Washington supports policies that allow small businesses to thrive and pave the way to economic growth, innovation and job creation. If you are a small business owner or entrepreneur, please go to smallbusiness.house.gov/openmic and interact with our Committee. The Small Business Committee not only wants, but needs to hear from you.

Republican Rep. Sam Graves of Missouri is chairman of the House Small Business Committee.