THANKSGIVING 2019: Grateful for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

By at 27 November, 2019, 1:48 pm

By Karen Kerrigan-

On this Thanksgiving 2019, I am grateful for many things. My health (10 years cancer free), my family and friends, and being in a career where I advocate for and engage with America’s entrepreneurs.  Here’s my short list of three things related to the latter that I am very grateful for:

America’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Yes, improvements need to be made to strengthen the policy ecosystem for entrepreneurs and small businesses, but America still remains the best place or one of the top countries in the world to start a business. Regarding ease of startup, the Doing Business 2020 report ranks the U.S. as #6. Nations across the world are working hard to “catch the U.S.” by advancing policies that encourage entrepreneurship and capital formation, but in my humble opinion the U.S. still has the most innovative and entrepreneurial culture on the planet.

The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, as we have seen in many studies and surveys regarding the aspirations of Americans. For example, a poll released on August 15 by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) found that 53% of young adult job seekers say they are likely to start a business in the future, and 70% say “the freedom of being their own boss is worth more than the benefit of job security working for someone else.”

A study by America’s Small Business Development Centers spotlighted the millennial generation’s entrepreneurial aspirations: “62% have a dream business they would like to start” and “almost half intend to start their own business in the next three years.”

But lest you think startup dreams are only for the young, older Americans are starting businesses in very high numbers. According to the Kauffman Foundation, “the 55- to 64-year-old age group accounted for 26% of new entrepreneurs in 2017,” an increase of over 15% in 1996. As reported by Bloomberg: “Research by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows the same age group has the highest rate of business startup activity globally over the past decade.”

Again, much work needs to be done to improve policies, access to capital and assistance for people who want to start (and scale) a business. Thankfully, there are leaders in business, politics and academia who are focused on improving both the policy and support systems to fuel startup aspirations and higher levels of entrepreneurship.

The Resilience of Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

During the course of my 25 years in the advocacy and education business, there have been great economic times, tough economic downturns, Great Recessions, weak recoveries and everything in between. The resilience of entrepreneurs who’ve powered through and grinded it out during the hard times is inspiring.  Small business confidence remains very healthy in 2019, but various uncertainties continue. For example, the direction of the economy in 2020, the cost of tariffs, a tight labor market, high health coverage costs, and fierce competition in general are currently on the minds of business owners. I am continually amazed by the creativity of small business owners who find a way to pivot, innovate and stay ahead of the challenges.

It takes great courage to start and run a business. It’s not for the faint of heart. Yet, risk-taking entrepreneurs step up. Many – thank goodness – have the guts, fortitude and smarts to navigate the ups-and-down, the ever-changing marketplace and the pain points that come with business ownership.

Loyal Customers and Supporters

It’s hard work building a brand and customer base. And in this age of high customer expectations and meeting customers “where they are” small business owners cannot afford to get complacent.  That being said, America is blessed with people who love small businesses and want to support them.

The Gallup “Confidence in Institutions” survey for 2019 again ranked small business second to the military as an “institution” where they have a great deal of confidence:

“Just three institutions — the military (73%), small business (68%) and the police (53%) — have garnered majority levels of confidence in all polls Gallup has conducted on each measure over the past two decades.”

Americans believe in the power of small businesses. They have a solid understanding of the local economic impact of supporting community businesses.

It is also inspiring to see the rebuilding and reinvigoration of small-town Main Streets across America. Several SBE Council members are directly involved in this hard work, and I recently traveled to Bellefontaine, OH for my third time to witness the transformation of this amazing small-town gem and to meet with many of the entrepreneurs and citizens who worked hard to make this happen. They love and understand the power of small business. I am so grateful for the entrepreneurs, risk-takers and visionaries such as Jason Duff (founder of Small Nation) who is also the leader behind Bellefontaine’s renaissance.

Read all about Bellefontaine in My Town Today: “Bellefontaine and Logan County, OH – A Case for Small Town Success.”

Don’t Forget: Small Business Saturday – November 30!

I would be remiss if I did not mention that shoppers have the opportunity on November 30 to support their favorite small businesses on Small Business Saturday! This is the 10th annual Small Business Saturday, and SBE Council has been a partner in this “nationwide shopping celebration” of sorts from the very beginning.

Happy Thanksgiving to all, and a big thank you for supporting and loving small business!

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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