The freedom to chase your entrepreneurial dream is one of the great foundations of America. Owning a business is a freedom the U.S. Census Bureau of Labor Statistics records 29.6 million Americans pursue today, supporting local communities with products and services while contributing millions of dollars and jobs to the American economy.
It also takes a tremendous amount of hustle, sacrifice and dedication. But what does that really look like across America?
Working with leading small business research agency Bredin, Kabbage surveyed 400 small business owners to understand the common professional and personal challenges of small business owners and how they balance their work- and home-life to pursue their passions.
The findings? All small business owners across industries – including retail, construction, home services, education, manufacturing, food and beverage, medical and automotive – have one undeniable trait: they’re highly motivated to succeed, and they make countless personal and financial sacrifices to build their businesses.
The data demonstrates the sacrifices small business owners (SBOs) make each year, forgoing what many of us take for granted—from time off work and meals with family to missed holidays or visits to the doctor or dentist.
Among the key sacrifices:
- Nearly one-third (29%) work more than 50 hours per week, while 86% work on the weekends.
- 53% work one of the six major holidays (New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas).
- More than half only eat one meal at home daily.
- 1 in 5 miss three or more doctor’s appointments every year.
- Across the board, SBOs miss out on social events and hobbies because they’re focused on building their business.
- The number one sacrifice each year is not taking a vacation. More than half (60%) only take one vacation per year; nearly one quarter (23%) take fewer than two vacation days annually. When they do go on vacation, more than 75% still work.
Beyond the personal compromises entrepreneurs make with vacations, family time and wellness, they also face financial challenges.
The Kabbage survey found almost half (47%) of SBOs use personal savings to pay for aspects of their business, while 21% use more than a quarter of these savings. Interestingly, using personal savings to start a business is most common among millennials (75%).
The data also shows small business owners are highly committed to doing what it takes to grow. When they have a cash surplus, they are most likely to put it back into their business rather than treating themselves or planning for their personal future:
- 40% will immediately reinvest in the business rather than pay themselves
- 17% will save for retirement
- 14% will set aside for personal or family investments
Positive Outlook & 2018 Investments
It clearly is paying off. The data shows the sheer commitment of small business owners to succeed, and they remain highly optimistic about the future. Two thirds expect to end 2017 with higher revenues, with more than half anticipating earning 10% or higher.
Looking ahead to 2018, they also intend to make investments to improve their productivity and efficiency:
- 36% will seek ways to improve their skills.
- 32% will invest in new technologies
- 28% intend to hire more employees.
Small business owners represent an entrepreneurial army built on resilience, grit and sacrifice. They answer the calls to fix pipes at midnight and work through the weekend to serve customers. They’re truly the heartbeat of our economy and deserve an enormous amount of gratitude. Kabbage encourages everyone to remember to shop small and—with more insight into what it takes to be a small business owner—thank them for all they contribute.