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The State of the Micro Business Owner

crowded ski slope

For many people, becoming an entrepreneur is the ultimate dream. Starting your own company, being your own boss — that’s the end goal.

Right now, more than 27 million people in the United States have realized that dream in the form of a micro business. This segment of small business, those with fewer than five employees, is typically underreported.

But at The UPS Store, through an ongoing survey, we’ve sought to better determine the unique set of challenges such business owners face. In partnership with the advertising agency Doner, The UPS Store has managed a private online community of approximately 400 micro business customers since 2013.

Starting in March, The UPS Store conducted four waves of its micro business survey, as well as online focus groups to track sentiment as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded.

“Forward-looking entrepreneurs shifted their business online and started shipping products to a new wave of customers wherever they reside.”

Critical questions

We wanted to understand the major challenges for micro business owners, their state of mind and how the pandemic ultimately disrupted their business.

As coronavirus gripped the world and businesses of all sizes faced potential closure, entrepreneurs grappled with unprecedented uncertainty and a series of critical, business-defining questions.

How would they pay rent with a closed storefront? Would they be able to keep their staff employed? Most of all, how long would the pandemic continue to impact business operations?

Adapting and pivoting

While no one has the exact answer to that last question yet, many micro business owners avoided the first two challenges.

While they represent a diverse mix of industries that sell both products and services, many micro businesses lack physical storefronts — and many don’t have any employees. This doesn’t remove them from disruption, however, as 92 percent have already felt an impact on their business in some way.

Despite this reality, many micro business owners are adapting and pivoting in remarkable ways to the current environment. Forward-looking entrepreneurs shifted their business online and started shipping products to a new wave of customers wherever they reside.

Although many are still anxious about the future, sentiment has improved greatly since mid-March (respondents describing themselves as worried has dropped 16 percentage points to 40 percent).

“One advantage of a micro business is the speed at which you can pivot. Micro business owners made constant adjustments to their businesses at the first sign of coronavirus-related challenges.”

Optimism and hope

Their personal optimism is increasing (37 percent compared to 25 percent in mid-March), along with their hopeful feelings about the future of their business (47 percent compared to 38 percent in mid-March). That’s almost half of surveyed micro business owners who are hopeful for the future, who still expect to emerge from the coronavirus storm despite harsh headwinds.

One advantage of a micro business is the speed at which you can pivot. Micro business owners made constant adjustments to their businesses at the first sign of coronavirus-related challenges. They started by communicating more with their customers — transparency is crucial to building loyalty right now.

And the micro business owner continues to take swift and decisive action. Reconsidering office space for employees? Not a problem for the micro business owner — who is most likely a work-from-home pro. New company operations procedures? Easy to pivot with just a handful of employees to retrain.

While the pandemic may have put some dreams of starting a business on hold, when it comes time to make that leap, just remember it’s not always bad to start small.

Interested in joining The UPS Store Small Biz Buzz community? Start by answering a few questions here.

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