Small Business is BIG!


By Marty Stahl

Entrepreneurship employs no guarantee of survival. It could be a losing proposition. So why do so many people choose to launch their own business?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that less than 50% of all small businesses successfully make it past four years of operation and yet the Small Business Administration [SBA] reports an increasing number of Americans are leaning toward self-employment. In 2013, 23 million small businesses accounted for 54% of U.S. sales. They provide 55% of all jobs. Over 600,000 franchises account for 40% of all retail sales and provide jobs for some 8 million people. The small business sector in America occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet, and these numbers are growing.

The launch rate for small business has grown even while corporate America has been shrinking. Since 1990, major corporations eliminated 4 million jobs while small businesses added 8 million. Small business owners across the United States are traveling the same rocky road together and the cumulative impact of the small business sector is enormous. In essence, small business is BIG!

The decision to choose entrepreneurship is big too. So why do so many choose this more challenging career path? Is it the creativity or the thrills of watching an idea come to life? Is it the excitement of closing a big sale or the gamble of possibly reaching fame and fortune? Whatever the reason, many are launching their own work options.

Volunteers of America’s Working Order program, a small business incubator, has helped over 350 people explore the option of self-employment and supported the launch or growth of 196 small businesses. We think people choose self-employment because it works.

Work is fundamental to our lives. It means so much more than a paycheck. Work offers people purpose and the opportunity to lead independent lives. Working Order has proven that people with disabilities and others who are disadvantaged by chronic disease, accidents, lack of education, aging or other life challenges, can be self-employed. For a person who is unemployed, underemployed or in career transition, choosing to work on her or his own terms can offer the greatest success possible.

Almost half of our nation’s businesses are operated from home and nearly one-third of home-based businesses were started or acquired with no capital at all. Evolutions in the market place include internet, social media, email and webinars making it more affordable to reach niche markets and easier for owners to complete management tasks.

Whether you are a struggling start-up or on the fast track to success, purpose connects most entrepreneurs. Common is their desire for a flexible work schedule, self-reliance, the desire to reach personal goals and the eventual outcome of increased income and a degree of financial stability. For those with disabilities or other challenges to traditional employment, self-employment can be a better fit for them than a 9 to 5 job. In that, entrepreneurs are not alone.

People with disabilities have the skills to pursue meaningful careers and play an important role in America’s educational and economic success. If you are a person with a disability or disadvantage, only you can define your own limitations.

For more information about Volunteers of America’s Working Order small business incubator, to hire an entrepreneur, to volunteer as a business expert or to donate to Volunteers of America go to or call 412-782-5344 x 209. Marty Stahl is the Executive Director of Working Order

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