Whether it’s your morning stop at the local coffee shop for a latte or the noodle cart with the best lunch specials, it’s hard to ignore the impact small businesses have on our lives. Each has their own unique approach to business, with details like hand-written menus, that endears us to them and their owners. It’s this spirit that gets rated in Yelp reviews and raved about to friends. We take pride in our status as regulars. We check in on Foursquare, follow blogs, and brag about how we knew about them before they got big. And the good news is, for small businesses, the near future seems brighter.
According to PNC’s recent Economic Outlook Survey, 82% of businesses are planning growth due to increasing optimism. This is the highest level of confidence since 2007. More good news for economic recovery: a third of small businesses nationwide expect to hire more employees. This means more manufacturing, more construction, and more cute baristas to brighten up your mornings.
What’s Good for Mom and Pop is Good For All
If each small business were to increase profits by $500 a month, the revenue generated annually would be higher than $20 billion, according to the Association for Enterprise Opportunity. With microenterprises—businesses with 5 or fewer employees—making up over 80% of all business in the US, there are plenty of opportunities to show support as a customer.
So, if you’re thinking that now is the time to finally turn your good idea into a business, you might be spot on. The median net worth of business owners nationwide is 2.5 times higher than non-owners. On the local level, growth of a small business relies heavily on the community and, at times, can be a risky venture. Take bartender-turned-business-owner Dillon Rhomberg from Portland, OR as an example. By cashing in his savings and investments, he was able purchase a small convenience store from a Vietnamese couple who’d owned it for 14 years. It was his way of reinvesting into the local economy. The success of his bodega depends on the relationship he builds with the community and how fast he can adapt to changing demands.
For most small businesses, the majority of their start up funding comes in the form of a line of credit from banks. In their Small Business Economic Report, the NFIB states that 92% of small businesses currently don’t plan on taking on more loans due to higher interest rates and the difficulties involved in arranging funding. But for some microenterprises funding has become more available. Early last month the Jumpstart Our Business Startups or JOBS act passed with bipartisan support encouraging funding for small businesses. The bill modernizes regulations for capital funding from individuals, essentially opening the door for crowdfunding of up to $1 million.
Crowdfunding Hits its Stride
If you’ve ever supported a friend’s campaign to travel across the U.S. taking pictures of Michael Jackson look-alikes or thrown your support behind a cool new gadget you found on Kickstarter, you’re already familiar with crowdfunding. Crowdsourcing.org defines crowdfunding as, “Financial contributions from online investors, sponsors or donors to fund for-profit or non-profit initiatives or enterprises.” Essentially, small individual contributions get thrown into the kitty to fund exciting projects.
Previously unable to offer shares in return for investments, fast growing small businesses can now raise capital from the general public with the amendments to the JOBS act. For the potential investor this means more exposure to great campaigns and startups through sites like Crowdtilt and WeFunder. You can keep up with the progress of a campaign and play a part in the business’s growth.
Putting in Your Two Cents
At the end of the day, we all like to see the underdog win. We cry at the end of [Rudy](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_(film), we get excited when our favorite shop opens a second location, and cheer when startups do well. As individuals, we have a plethora of ways to support small business. Loyal patronage is the best form of support—whether that means using your favorite app or visiting your local bodega. Our small contributions add up to the success of the small business, and, in the process, we play a part in job creation and the continual strengthening of our economy.