By the Numbers: What PR pros should know about small businesses

Small business is big business in the United States.

Small business statistics

Companies with fewer than 500 employees make up 99.9% of all businesses in the United States, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They employ 46% of private sector workers and contribute 43.5% of the GDP.

That makes the people who own and work in small businesses a valuable audience for many B2B organizations. So, let’s get to know small businesses a bit better to improve our targeting and audience understanding.

Who owns small businesses?

According to data from Pew Research, most small businesses are indeed small. Forty-nine percent have 1-4 employees, 16% have 5-9 employees and 14% have no employees at all. Meanwhile, only 3.3% of small businesses have more than 50 workers.

In most cases, you’re looking at micro-organizations that need to be met on individual terms. Just as you might think of targeting a chief procurement officer at a larger organization, you’ll want to specifically target just one important person at these companies. You won’t have layers of bureaucracy and process but rather one key decisionmaker.

Who are these owners?

In many cases, it’s a family affair. Twenty-seven percent of all small businesses are family-owned, while 10% are jointly owned and operated by spouses. Another 11% are jointly owned by spouses but not jointly operated.

Men own the majority of small businesses at 61%. Women account for 22% of owners while men and women equally operated 14%.

Most small businesses are owned by white people, at 85%. This is a disproportionately high percentage considering  that white Americans make up just 75% of the overall population. Asian Americans own 11% of small businesses, Hispanics 7%, Black people 3% and about 1% are owned by Indigenous peoples from America, Alaska and Hawaii.

Of course, these are broad, general statements. Based on geography, industry and other factors, the exact demographics of the audience you’re trying to reach can vary broadly. Some industries may attract more people of one demographic than another; racial distribution can also play a massive role. So, know the data, but don’t assume every small business owner is a white man.

How long have small businesses existed?

You might think that small businesses tend to be flash-in-the-pans, but 59% of all small businesses have been in operation for more than six years while 15% have been around for more than 25 years. Thirty-five percent of small businesses have been in operation for less than five years, while 9% started in just the last year.

In other words, small businesses tend to have some longevity to them. Yes, many may fail because business is hard but assume you’re speaking to organizations with some legacy and history behind them.

Small businesses are growing and thriving

According to data from Bluevine, a banking platform for small businesses, most small business owners headed in 2024 feeling bullish about the future. Ninety-three percent of small businesses said they turned a profit in 2023, and 67% intended to add to their headcount in 2024.

Bluevine’s data also found that most small businesses are focused on selling their products locally or regionally (54%), though 31% sell nationwide and 14% sell their wares around the globe. A plurality sells their goods and services both online and via a brick-and-mortar location (39%) while 28% sell only in person and 26% sell only online.

Why it matters for PR pros

Small businesses are a vibrant, vital part of the U.S. economy. By better understanding their world, their needs, their concerns and their demographics, you can better find ways to tap into this market to help grow your own business and improve your local community.

What do you wish you knew about small businesses?


Topics: PR


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