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Survey of High-Performing Small Businesses

The Gazelle Index is a new national quarterly survey of the current conditions, optimism and future hiring plans of high-performing minority, women and nonminority small firms. Over time, we believe the results will indicate that the views and expectations of small business owners are leading indicators of economic activity. The CEOs of small firms, unlike those of large corporations, are more closely connected to their sales force and as such, are more attuned to turning points in the economy. The Gazelle Index emphasizes businesses owned by minorities and women because they represent 50% of the nation’s 27 million small businesses. In fact, the Census Bureau’s latest Survey of Business Owners found that, between 2002 and 2007, the growth of minority- and women-owned businesses exceeded that of nonminority-owned firms in number, earnings, and employment. Despite their high representation, there is no official market sensitive indicator of the performance of minority and women-owned businesses — and remarkably few indicators of small business activity in general.

Local Roles in Small Business Culture

Local officials widely recognize that economic competitiveness is contingent upon a strong and growing entrepreneurial and small business community. This is particularly relevant given the national dialogue promoting entrepreneurs and small businesses as key drivers of economic recovery. In order for these businesses to thrive, however, they need a place, or local culture, that does not create barriers and is supportive of their development. While local governments do not necessarily create new businesses, their programs and policies heavily influence this local culture. Building on previous survey research and in-depth fieldwork, we develop a framework to begin to understand and define the underlying characteristics of local efforts supportive of a small business and entrepreneurial culture. We offer case studies of four promising programs in Wichita, Kan., New York, N.Y., Seattle, Wash. and Boston, Mass. to illustrate these characteristics in practice.

Determinants of Rural Self-Employment

The sustained surge in rural self-employment since 2000 has largely gone unnoticed by policymakers and rural economic developers. Here we document this increase and identify variables associated with expanding self-employment using county-level data. Our regression analysis draws largely on two previous studies, which we update and refine by using more nuanced measures of rural. Results provide mixed evidence about the importance of capital access to self-employment growth but reveal that different policies are needed in rural counties depending on their proximity to metro areas and overall population size if the goal is to increase future rural self-employment rates.

Building Infrastructure for Entrepreneurship

This study examines the creation and configuration of infrastructure for entrepreneurship. Using the case of nanotechnology’s emergence, I show how the three elements of infrastructure, public resource endowments, institutional arrangements, and proprietary functions, are generated by a common set of actors, simultaneously, leading to boundary obfuscation and competition. Entrepreneurs did not wait until a critical mass of infrastructure accumulated but started firms despite the lack of infrastructure. The earliest entrepreneurs endured a trifecta of burdens: their liability of newness, nascent market uncertainty, and ambiguity in the emergence of the technology itself. In exchange, early entrepreneurs were part of the infrastructure creation and configuration process. Additionally, I find that infrastructure is not measured by the number of resources within an element or the efficacy. Infrastructure configures because of interactions between elements, in the space between the actors and elements where boundaries blur.

Women in Green

On behalf of the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), Hart Research
conducted two focus groups on August 31, 2011, among 13 self-described
“established” or “aspiring” female entrepreneurs attending the “Women in
Green” Forum in Santa Monica, California. It should be noted that the
findings presented here reflect the fact that nearly all of the participants are
in the early stages of establishing new business ventures. It also is important
to remember that our participants made a conscious choice to attend (and
pay for) the Forum, a fact that may differentiate them significantly from
other entrepreneurs in the green sector (or other sectors).

Small Business Finance FAQ

This document sketches the ecosystem or life-cycle of small business financing. The FAQ format allows users to browse through topics and learn about specific issues. Small businesses, which include startups in such sectors as information technology, service, retail, and manufacturing, have varying financial needs.

Small Businesses in Recent Recoveries

Small businesses play a vital role in the U.S. economy. These firms produce half of private GDP, employ half the private workforce, and are the source of most job creation in the U.S., accounting for roughly two-thirds of new net private sector jobs over the past two decades.1 The importance of small firms to production and job creation makes their health fundamental to economic growth. Data from the National Federation of Independent Business’s (NFIB) 350,000 member businesses indicate that in the current recovery period, these firms are suffering from unusually low levels of sales and earnings, investing less, and hiring fewer workers than in previous recoveries, exacerbating the nation’s unemployment situation and contributing to a lackluster rebound from the most severe U.S. recession since the Great Depression. Statistics on the small business sector are not readily available, but the NFIB data suggest that this sector is dramatically underperforming. Because half of the economy is not growing, we have not enjoyed the kind of growth experienced in past recoveries.

What Do Small Businesses Do?

Substantial differences exists among U.S. small businesses owners; Erik Hurst and Benjamin Wild Pugsley show few small businesses intend to bring a new idea to market.

How For-Profit Lenders Serve Microentrepreneurs

It is important to understand what this changing marketplace might hold. What are the implications of this new landscape of providers for microentrepreneurs and the nonprofit microlending industry?

Micro-Lending Pilot Program Report

The Dolores Huerta Foundation set out to launch a micro-lending pilot program, building capacity by researching small business curricula and micro-enterprise development models. Additionally, site visits were made to glean best practices and observe successful micro-lending operations.