As of Jan. 2020, there were 31.7 million small businesses which made up 99.9% of the businesses in the U.S.––but as we know, the year 2020 took an unforeseen turn. The Covid-19 pandemic took an overwhelming toll on these 31.7 million businesses. When just about 50% of all people employed work for small businesses and 18% work specifically for micro businesses, it was evident to everyone that these “small” businesses were going to have a large effect on the world’s second largest economy, and in turn, the world economy at-large. Since 1963, the United States has recognized small businesses’ impact and necessity to the economy and overall culture of the U.S. every first week of May. Since then, small businesses have had their ups and downs, but this past year has both tested and proven the original charter of small business week––now month.
In March of 2020, we saw the scramble for the U.S. to assemble aid for the small businesses who would inevitably suffer from the ordinances by local, state and the national government to stop operations in hopes of slowing the spread of the virus. By April of 2020, funding had dried up, and the push for an already at-odds Congress to pass additional aid money was full-steam ahead. To be fair, every business was suffering. The U.S. would have just seen its worst first quarter since the Great Depression. But unlike their larger counterparts, small business–especially micro business– wouldn’t have the reserves of capital like the billion dollar companies would for a rainy day; much less for a downpour like the months of shut downs with little guidance on what to do in the meantime. It was during this time that we saw just how influential and important the small business ecosystem is.
Right before our eyes, we witnessed the biggest boom in small business innovation in history. AEO and our counterparts in the fight to elevate small and micro businesses’ voices, started to mobilize and truly understand the needs of owners and the strategy it would take for them to weather this storm and come out of it better. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. It means durable, tough and flexible. From brainstorming roundtables with internal employees and staff, all the way to giving testimonies to congress. It was the collective mission for all who cared about small business, to get more people to care. That care showed up as the thousands of grant programs–both public and private–offering funding for small businesses, especially the ones most drastically impacted. We saw that care show up as the numerous technical assistance programs from large technology and banking and commerce companies like GoDaddy (NYSE: GDDY) and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) to ensure the business and the organizations that work directly with them, had the tools to make it through.
As we reflect on the year that small businesses have had and the direction we’re headed, know that the word resilience is the shortest way to explain the character of the small and micro business ecosystem. Main street continues to rise through the rubble and embody the rose from the concrete mentality. This small business month, let’s remember to give ourselves our flowers for all that we’ve accomplished and continue to reach toward the sun.