inside small business survey

Inside Small Business: Survey Shows Startup Dreams Thriving

Latest posts by Dr. Luke Pittaway (see all)

The second annual The UPS Store, Inc.’s “Inside Small Business Survey” is in, and the results confirm that dreams of owning a small business continue to be robust in 2019. This year’s survey demonstrates that more than 65 percent of Americans have dreamed of owning a small business, which is notably higher than many other countries, as demonstrated by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) studies.

This enthusiasm also appears to be spilling over to aspirations for our children. In its second year, the survey asked about attitudes toward our children’s careers, and similarly, 62 percent of respondents hoped their child, or a child they knew, would grow up to start their own business. This is a remarkable data point and demonstrates that the American spirit of enterprise continues to be passed from one generation to the next. It is also notable that these views continue, despite a booming economy and the many career options that are open to young people in what is clearly an increasingly difficult labor market for employers.

When asked what motivates people to start their own business, a desire for independence being your own boss and building something successfully are leading motivators. Factors that inhibit startups in the survey continue to be maintaining financial security, the financial commitments required to start and fear of failure.

Elsewhere, small business owners report that access to health care is an important consideration and likely remains a barrier for some. Despite these barriers though, it is clear the U.S. continues to have high aspirations of starting up, and this sentiment crosses generations.



The UPS Store Inside Small Business Survey also demonstrated a generally positive view about the economy. In particular, small business owners had a more positive perception of the economy when compared to the other survey respondents (72 percent small business owners versus 42 percent non-small business owners).

Other trends are also identified in this year’s survey by The UPS Store:

The increasing interest in starting a business amongst the 55- to 65-year-old population, with the “second gig” of a startup becoming a common consideration as an alternative to outright retirement. This trend has important implications, as this generation tends to bring more personal wealth, personal networks (social capital) and experience (human capital), to their entrepreneurial efforts. While businesses in this age group may be more lifestyle-oriented at the beginning, the addition of this labor pool to the startup community will likely have significant economic value for society. This trend is also notable in the context of the “gig economy” with more people overall taking on side gigs. These side gigs prove that a diversified approach to work and retirement is becoming more common within all age groups.

Buying locally continues to trend positively, as survey results show that 70 percent of respondents will make active plans to buy from local small businesses. Consumers will actively seek local businesses out, and prefer them to businesses that are large, or not local. This trend shows the importance of building deliberate strategies to support referrals within a community when starting up a new business. It also demonstrates the danger of negative local word of mouth for a new business.

Another trend in this year’s survey that stood out were respondents’ attitudes toward new technologies, such as robotics and AI. The general population is overwhelmed with stories of doom and gloom about these new technologies and how they will displace careers and make the future of work itself problematic.

Despite this concern, respondents were very positive about the prospects of these new technologies, as 64 percent were positive about the impact these technologies will have on small businesses. This can be interpreted as showing some optimism that these technologies will help small businesses compete with larger conglomerates and improve their ability to be agile.


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In conclusion, The UPS Store Inside Small Business Survey this year continues to show strong positive attitudes toward startups. It illustrates that views about the economy are currently positive and that the gig economy is spreading to older generations. Finally, attitudes about buying locally and new technologies are more positive than might be expected.

inside small business survey

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