In Our Changing Economy, Entrepreneurs Need Clearer Paths to Small Businesses

“There are no small parts, only small actors.”

As a business school dean, I don’t normally offer business insight using quotes about acting, but this quote from Constantin Stanislavski is an exception. Believe it or not, it gets to the heart of one of the most fundamental truths in the business world — small businesses have an enormous role to play in keeping the engine of the economy and innovation churning. This is true on every level, from supporting the national economy to the communities and individuals hard at work in it. It is also why looking for ways to support small businesses is critical to supporting business at large.[1]

First, consider their role nationally. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, small business jobs currently employ almost 60 million members of the nation’s private workforce. This is actually greater than the enterprise sector (companies with more than 500 employees), which employs 51.6 million. In fact, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and small businesses create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

Small businesses also play a critical role on a more local scale. Here in Nevada, more than 229,000 small businesses operate across the state’s largest industries, including aerospace and defense, mining, and tourism and recreation.[2]

We know small businesses play a significant role in the U.S. economy. A recent survey by Morning Consult and University of Phoenix School of Business found that nearly nine in 10 registered voters (89 percent) believe small businesses improve the quality of life in their community. But, for many, small business is even more personal. Fifty-seven percent of registered voters from the same survey have a parent, immediate family member or close friend who have either previously owned or currently own a small business.[3]

Given the close connection so many have to small business owners and employees, it is not surprising that respondents are not just saying small businesses are important, they are showing it through their purchases. The same survey found that 94 percent of registered voters say they shop locally at least some of the time to support small businesses in their communities, and furthermore, more than a third (31 percent) have increased the amount they buy locally in the past year. With such local support, it is not surprising that 50 percent of small business owners overall feel current business conditions are good or excellent (up from 41 percent a year ago) according to Capital One’s latest Small Business Growth Index.[4]

Of course, no one can quite appreciate the value of small businesses as much as the eight percent of respondents who currently own a small business. These owners understand the important role their business plays, and that running a small business is no small task. It takes grit and determination. It takes entrepreneurial spirit and entrepreneurial know how.

We must do all we can to support current small business owners, and to help grow and prepare the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Many potential entrepreneurs have great ideas, a strong understanding of specific industries and an unbridled drive to succeed, hoverer they can still face a steep barrier without the business background to turn their dreams and concepts into profitable ventures. Higher education institutions should work to fill those knowledge gaps with business education and experience, helping prepare individuals to turn an idea into a marketable and viable product, business or organization.

At University of Phoenix® School of Business, we create an environment for our students that allows them to test ideas, take risks and grow. In my experience, students are driven by their desire to learn and deliver at an even higher level for themselves.

Outside of the traditional classroom, we have pioneered other ways to help foster small business owners and employees at every step of their career. RedFlint experience center, located in downtown Las Vegas, offers entrepreneurs and startups unique access to tools and resources to add to their skillsets, explore cutting-edge technologies and enhance their business models. Through workshops, panel discussions and technology exhibitions, RedFlint encourages a creative space for small businesses to grow.

Our survey found that a third of registered voters have increased the amount they shop locally from last year, however, we can do more. Especially in Las Vegas where the burgeoning tech community is helping small businesses and startups reach their growth potential, while representing a vital part of the local Las Vegas economy.[5]

Higher education and business leaders have a responsibility to help encourage individuals to support their own ideas with research, address knowledge gaps, lay out a growth strategy, network and learn from other successful entrepreneurs. We must continue to grow to ensure a future of successful entrepreneurs.

[1] https://www.uschamber.com/sites/default/files/legacy/reports/1007_sb_accesstocapital.pdf

[2] https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/files/resourceguide_3133.pdf

[3] A national sample of 1,992 registered U.S. voters completed this online survey, conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of University of Phoenix School of Business, from March 2–6, 2017. The margin of error for the full sample was +/- 2 percent. For complete survey methodology, please contact melany.stroupe@apollo.edu.

[4] http://press.capitalone.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=251626&p=irol-newsarticle&ID=2258011

[5] https://www.reviewjournal.com/local/local-las-vegas/downtown/las-vegas-startups-pitch-their-ideas-shark-tank-style-to-investors/

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