Small businesses are a big deal

Dell. Microsoft. Walmart. MC Donalds. What’s on your mind right now? Each of these companies started out as small companies that eventually grew into large companies, very large successful companies. Together they bring billions of dollars and millions of jobs to our global economy.

But who were these companies before they became household names? Who were these owners before they became billionaires? Michael Dell founded Dell in his dorm room at the University of Texas in 1984 with just $1,000; It is now the world’s largest PC maker and has grown to over $40 billion in revenue in just sixteen years. Bill Gates left Harvard, founded Microsoft and grew it into a $231 billion software giant. Sam Walton bought a small retail store in Arkansas shortly after graduating from college; Wal-Mart is now the largest company in the world by revenue. It took McDonalds 13 years before their second restaurant ever opened in 1953 and today it serves over 47 million customers worldwide every day.

The purpose of this article is to highlight the importance of small businesses to our economy. With economic development organizations and communities focused on the ‘big fish’, are we overlooking the tremendous potential and opportunity of small businesses? This important group accounted for 97.6% of all Indiana businesses in 2006! These 128,100 employer companies accounted for 57% of all jobs in Indiana, nearly 1.3 million. In 2007, all net job creation in the US was in small businesses (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

We cannot afford to overlook the contributions and value that small businesses bring to our economy. Our region must continue to provide opportunities, build programs that support and encourage innovation and risk-taking. As the economy continues to stagnate, this support is critical to the survival of small businesses and consequently to the health of our regional economy.

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There are a number of small business resources in the area to help small businesses start, expand and thrive. For example, the NWI SBDC offers new and existing small business owners free consulting services, low-cost workshops, tools and resources, and recommendations from resource partners. There are also a number of on-site business incubators to help with hands-on development, as well as full-service office spaces such as the Hammond Innovation Center, Entech Innovation Center, Michigan City Entrepreneurship Center and Purdue Technology Center. These and other resources mentioned are invaluable and can give that entrepreneur the extra support and guidance to help them succeed and scale new heights.

The statistics show it – we need these entrepreneurs who start and grow small businesses. Luckily we have no shortage of people looking to fill this gap and demand will continue to grow. A survey sponsored by the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership found that nearly seven in 10 youth (ages 14 to 19) were interested in becoming an entrepreneur. The notion of being an entrepreneur now trumps the old adage of becoming a doctor or a lawyer.

With communities creating business-friendly environments and resources like SBDC, incubators and others, a Sam Walton or Michael Dell could emerge and become an e-giant. If we really want to develop the region, offer future opportunities to our graduates and prevent the brain drain, let’s work together and focus on our locally grown small businesses.

~ Never underestimate the power of small businesses!

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