The United States actually began as a society of small businesses, we just don’t think of early agriculture that way. During colonial times, nearly 90% of Americans made their living through farming and ranching. While most farms were used to provide for the family and community, regional shipping was common as farms became modernized.
But for the most part, large corporations didn’t exist, and each community was built around farmers, craftsmen, and shopkeepers. Almost everyone had their own small business which played a vital part in the community.
Ok, great, why does this matter today? Because I’m going to argue that there is a new kind of farmer in America, the local small business owners. Yes, of course small businesses have been around since the founding of America. But in the last 30 years, we are finally coming back around to small businesses making a big impact on the national economy.
The Growth of Small Businesses
Since 1982, small businesses have grown by 49%, and now provide over half of the total American jobs. In fact, since 1990, large corporations have eliminated four million jobs, small business start-ups and hires have added eight million jobs!
Large businesses certainly make products cheaper to build, and consequently cheaper to buy. But we’ve lost something in the process, and sold off a little of our independence in order to save a few bucks. When I see local small business owners, I realize it’s possible to serve a niche in our own community. Instead of looking for the next big corporate job, people are looking for ways to use their unique skills to serve the local community.
Life used to be like this, and you can see the proof in the last names. Baker, Smith, Potter, Weaver, and more. They each had a unique skill which served the community in a special way. They didn’t worry about running out of work, because they served a need. The need for an apprentice has also gone by the wayside, which is a shame. Young people learned valuable lessons from men and women in their community who weren’t their parents, while gaining knowledge at work they may do in the future.
Global Scale for Local Small Businesses
The internet and global economy has now allowed even local small businesses to make sales and reach an audience around the world! We can have the freedom to put the future in our own hands, and not in the hands of the top floor executive.
We’ve seen throughout the decades an emphasis on buying American goods, and recently a focus on buying regional and local goods. Small and mid-size cities who don’t have big business to bring in jobs are even more fanatical about the local movement. Think about the different small businesses in your town that serve a niche. Restaurants, breweries, craftsmen, artists, musicians, designers, retail shops – they’re everywhere!
I’m in the midst of a life, job, and city transition myself, and I just catch myself wondering…
“Do I really want to jump immediately in to the next 50 hour a week job?”
My hesitation is not a result of being lazy, I really enjoy work and contribution. But I do think about what I want my next big block of work to be, and like many small business owners, it want it to be something where I have a big say in how I work.
Another reason is that while a traditional job does offer certain benefits and levels of security, actual job security is not what it used to be! People are laid off with regularity, for various reasons. In some very important ways, running your own small business is actually more secure than your old job!
As a small business owner, you control your destiny in many critical ways. Your success or failures depend a lot on your work ethic and drive. Many people end up asking,
“Can I bet on myself?”
If the answer is yes, then go for it! Remember that America was founded on the strength and numbers of local small businesses and farmers. Here’s hoping we go back to it soon.
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