small business week
Leadership Startup

Learn Your History! The Story of Small Businesses in America

Small Business Week is coming fast! This year, it’s April 28th to May 4th. The Small Business Association (SBA) organizes the week to highlight the hard work and dedication it takes to run a small business. Some cities even take the occasion a step further and use the whole month of May to celebrate small businesses. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, let’s dive into history and see how small business leaders have shaped the economy.  

The beginning of businesses  

In comparison to other countries, the U.S. is a pretty young one. Not too long ago, when America first became independent, all businesses were technically small! There were no giants in the market until around the 1880s. It was too hard to expand when technology was slow. Because of this, starting a small business mirrored the way America began. By avoiding dependence on an external organization, people fostered character and increased levels of democracy.  

Several inventions changed all that in the late 1800s. We’ve long since moved past the technology that initially changed the game, but the railroad, the telegraph and the steam engine were all big movers and shakers. Once communication and transport improved, businesses became much faster and more efficient. That’s when big corps began to enter the picture. It didn’t seem like there was a limit for expansion anymore.  

Protecting the underdog  

As big corporations started to take over the economy, people realized it was still important to support small businesses. Otherwise, a select few would take over the market and never give new people a chance. The best way to do this was through legislation. The Sherman Anti-trust Act (1890) tried to prevent trusts completely since they were leading to monopolies. The Clayton Anti-trust Act (1914), along with others, improved on this attempt by eliminating loopholes and the workarounds big companies were attempting to use.  

The SBA and its importance  

Even after all these legislative efforts, there were still difficulties and power struggles. To crack down on this, there needed to be a series of compromises. Eventually, the SBA was created in 1953 to continuously promote and protect small businesses.  

Even though it may feel like we are currently overrun with huge companies, small ones are still the backbone of the U.S. economy. Not only are their character, creativity and perseverance valued, but they also contribute what others cannot. They target communities that are too niche for big corporations to worry about. They are usually more environmentally sustainable and source materials from local communities. Lastly, they can innovate themselves and adapt to new technology far faster than large corporations– just some of the many reasons why we should protect them.  

Small businesses today  

So, how many small businesses are out there? As it turns out, a lot! According to ACT-ICT, over 99 percent of businesses are small. They create more than 65 percent of jobs and produce 50 percent of GDP that isn’t farm-based.  

A July 2023 report by the Senate found that there are 33.2 million small businesses in the U.S. Of that number, 13.2 million are owned by women. These companies generate close to two trillion dollars and jobs for more than ten million people. That’s a lot of impact for being “small”! 

Keep going! 

Small business appreciation may seem to only come one month (or week) a year, but we know it should come all year long, especially since they have long been the foundation of the U.S. To all our fierce women entrepreneurs who face the challenges of running small businesses, we see you and cheer you on! Keep the creative flow of ideas running, and keep pursuing your vision. You are changing the economy for the better.  

Looking to meet other like-minded small business leaders and build a community? Check out our networking recap!

About the author

Sanch Sen

Sanch Sen graduated from Amsterdam University College where she studied neuroscience and psychology. She loves combining her science knowledge and passion for marketing when writing articles for Lioness Magazine. She is currently back in her former stomping grounds of Boston, Massachusetts.

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