Grass-roots entrepreneurship is alive and well in the United States, according to a new poll on microbusinesses.
A new quarterly poll released this week by Sam’s Club and Gallup found that 69% of entrepreneurs say owning a business is their ideal job. The “Microbusiness Tracker” polled 868 entrepreneurs who run businesses with five or fewer employees.
Sam’s Club president and CEO Rosalind Brewer says microbusiness owners are an important part of Sam’s Club’s customer base. Brewer hopes the tracker will be able to spark an important dialogue between the company and its entrepreneurial customers.
“More conversations with our member base will help us figure out what’s next for the company,” says Brewer. After a few quarters of data, Brewer says the results may be used to rethink certain aspects of the Sam’s Club business, from pricing to categories of products offered.
Earlier this year, Sam’s Club announced it would be laying off 2% of its workforce, or 2,300 workers. Half of the cuts targeted assistant managers, while the rest affected hourly employees. In February, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company reported having closed one club altogether in its fourth-quarter earnings report. Sam’s Club currently operates 635 clubs, and reports serving more than 600,000 customers per day.
The survey, which took place in March, found that financial concerns were top of mind for microbusiness owners.
Nearly a third of survey respondents say they depend on a second job outside of their business to support themselves. And over 60% say they are financing their companies with personal savings, with 55% reporting that access to cash reserves is a big problem.
Kimberly Palmer, the author of “Economy of You,” a book on the rise of microbusinesses, says the Sam’s Club/Gallup results are in line with her findings on new entrepreneurs.
“I actually found that most microbusiness owners tried to keep startup costs so low in order to avoid taking out loans,” says Palmer. She says many entrepreneurs are opting to launch their businesses on platforms like Etsy or Fiverr, partially in order to cut back on spending.
“They do want to use personal savings and avoid the bank loan route. Often, [loans] are not even an option for them,” says Palmer, given the post-recession lending environment.
Women Entrepreneurs on the Rise
The Sam’s Club/Gallup poll found nearly half of the microbusinesses launched in the last few years are owned by women. In comparison, less than a third of the small companies that have been up and running for over 20 years are owned by women, suggesting a significant spike in women entrepreneurs.
But the path to entrepreneurship isn’t easy – especially for women.
According to the poll, women are more likely than men (43.5% to 35.7%) to worry about working too hard. They also reported having more issues “having it all,” with 36.3% of women entrepreneurs reporting they struggle with balancing work and life, compared to 32.0% of men.
But Palmer suggests that many women may be drawn to microbusiness because of their desire for flexibility and balance.
“Women are absolutely worrying more [about these issues],” says Palmer. “The women I interviewed almost always expressed the desire for work-life balance, flexibility and the ability to care for children. They feel they can’t do that in a traditional workplace, so for women especially, it’s a huge motivator.”