Small Business

6 Things Marketers Must Know About Today’s Small Business Owners

ForbesMay 17, 2021

While 2020 undoubtedly posed its challenges, it also inspired millions of entrepreneurs to take their big ideas and turn them into big business opportunities. More than 4.4 million new companies were started last year. This rise is a 26.9 percent increase compared to 2019, and it’s the single largest increase of the past decade. 

Now, as the global economy rebuilds itself in 2021, who better to lead the inevitable comeback than the entrepreneurs and small business owners driving America’s economy? Understanding how to connect with this increasingly influential group is crucial for all marketing and communications strategies.

As we come off the heels of National Small Business Week, we continue to spotlight the diverse entrepreneurs redefining and reimaging businesses while uncovering what marketers must know about today’s small business owners. 

Every marketer knows that to reach your customer, you need to get to know your customer first. So, here’s what you need to know about this generation of small business owners and entrepreneurs.

  1. They come from all backgrounds. While venture-backed startups generally skew white, male and coastal, minority-owned companies across the country are growing rapidly. Recently, For(bes) The Culture released The State of Black Entrepreneurship to unveil decades of overlooked Black business successes with quantitative data and multimedia storytelling that illustrates where Black entrepreneurship stands today—and where it’s headed.
  2. They’re self-reliant. This generation of doers is primarily self-funded, self-driven and self-sustaining. In fact, according to the Kauffman Foundation, 89% of U.S. small businesses are either sole proprietorships or have less than 20 full-time employees. 
  3. They’re reimagining industries. Small business owners don’t recreate the wheel; they reimagine the mode of transportation altogether. From creating a data-driven scholarship marketplace to improving efficiencies for small-time farmers, standout entrepreneurs are improving industries across the board.
  4. They’re optimistic. Despite all of the challenges faced in 2020, 81% of business owners still believe that owning their own business outweighs the challenges, based on American Express’ latest Business Resilience Survey. Plus, more than half of this same group reported having a positive outlook for the U.S. economy in 2021. 
  5. They’re only getting started. Entrepreneurs aren’t going anywhere. To help spotlight the entrepreneurial heroes who are on their way, in June 2020, Forbes launched a call for nominations to the Forbes Next 1000 list to highlight the ambitious sole proprietors, self-funded shops and pre-revenue startups in every region of the country. To date, we’ve had thousands of submissions and have recognized the first 250 out of 1,000 entrepreneurs. The next list of 250 will be released on June 16.
  6. They turn obstacles into opportunities. Even in the most uncertain of times, top entrepreneurs find ways to adapt and harness the hurdles they face. Whether it means pivoting or even abandoning a plan altogether, the small business owners of today convert challenges into success. (And Forbes is looking forward to celebrating their up-and-coming success through the Next 1000.) 

Whether it was the effects of 2020 or an earlier drive, the entrepreneurs and doers of today have stopped waiting for the road less traveled to appear and have forged a path on their own. For marketers who want to reach this group in a meaningful way, you’ll need to meet these entrepreneurs where they’re at—and find smart ways to help them keep moving forward. 

“I want to tell small business owners and entrepreneurs out there that this is our season… That we’re bigger than we think. That we are in fact essential. I think that all around the world people are understanding and realizing that if small businesses go, the communities go.” Lauren Stovall, Legacy Preserver, Hot Sam’s Detroit at the Forbes Small Business Summit in September 2020.



This article was written by Sonya Matejko from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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