Survey: Small Businesses Remain Optimistic in the Face of Inflation and Access to Capital Challenges
Poll finds a quarter of small business owners received no capital during the pandemic, and a third cite a lack of awareness
Washington, D.C. - Today, Small Business Majority and Start Small Think Big released a new survey revealing 26% of small businesses did not obtain capital during the pandemic, despite 64% citing lack of capital as a barrier they encountered when making changes to maintain their business.
Small businesses are doing what they can to navigate back to pre-pandemic business operations. Even as concerns about inflation increase and 89% of small business owners say that they are feeling its impact, they have persevered. Now, more than a third of respondents reported their business conditions have somewhat improved compared to a year ago.
Federal relief such as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) greatly supported this community’s road to recovery. The poll research found that 46% of the respondents acquired a PPP loan, and 39% received an EIDL. However, a little more than a quarter of small business owners say that they obtained no capital at all since the pandemic, citing various reasons why. More than one-third of the respondents who did not obtain capital since the start of the pandemic applied for a grant or loan but were denied, 35% did not qualify for the grants or loans that were available, and 31% did not know about the grants or loans they could apply to. Additionally, minority-owned firms (41%) were more likely to respond that they did not qualify for funding programs compared to 25% of their white counterparts. Eighteen percent of small business owners said they did not need the capital to maintain their business.
“As a minority woman small business owner, I’m disappointed to learn from this research that minority-owned firms were more likely to feel as though they didn’t qualify for funding programs compared to their white counterparts,” said Talibah Bayles, Founder & CEO, Access Granted, Inc., Birmingham, Ala. “As a long-time advocate for small businesses, I have made it my mission to close the small business financial literacy gap. This data serves as a call to action for small business partners, entrepreneurs, and leaders. We must get to the root of how we can collectively provide wraparound services for the under-resourced and under-served and work toward equitable access to capital.”
Inflation and obtaining capital are not the only challenges small business owners have faced. Sixty percent of respondents continue to navigate supply chain disruptions. Additionally, 73% of minority-owned businesses are struggling to access benefits such as healthcare compared to their white counterparts (61%). Despite these challenges, more than 6 in 10 small business owners are optimistic about their business prospects for the next six months.
The poll perpetuates this optimism because it reveals that despite small businesses historically struggling to make commercial rent and mortgage payments, 47% of respondents who rent or own a commercial space are current on their payments. Fifty-seven percent of small business owners stayed in the same commercial space over the past 12 months, while 14% acquired a new space and only 11% relocated during the same period.
The resilience of small business owners was even more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic when many entrepreneurs had to pivot their business model and adapt to the changing business environment. Digital transformation accelerated during the pandemic, giving entrepreneurs the opportunity to advance ideas on digital platforms and use new digital tools. The survey found that more small businesses used digital tools to grow their business and buy and sell their goods. Specifically, during the pandemic:
Website ownership increased by 8%
Paid digital advertising increased by 18%
Social media presence increased by 35%
While overcoming challenges in maintaining a small business during a global financial crisis, smaller firms are also navigating a competitive job market and having difficulty recruiting and retaining quality talent. The survey revealed that while nearly half of respondents are currently hiring or plan to hire in the next year, 68% of small business owners reported that it’s hard to find quality workers. Amid movements such as the “great resignation” and “quiet quitting,” 64% of respondents said that candidates are asking for higher wages. Given the low profit margins in the last two years, which have been exacerbated by inflation risks, many small businesses just can not afford to hire new employees.
“Small businesses are resilient and innovative,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO, Small Business Majority. “They have responded to ongoing challenges in various ways, such as embracing digital transformation and utilizing limited resources to maintain their commercial space. However, our new survey reveals that despite their stamina, small business owners need more opportunities to grow their workforce. We encourage policymakers to enact legislation promoting a more robust labor force and supporting a long-term and sustainable road to recovery.”
The survey reflects the opinions of 676 small business owners and managers from Small Business Majority and Start Small Think Big’s networks between June 20 through August 21, 2022. The margin of error is +/- 3%. Less than a quarter (17%) of respondents are self-employed and the majority of respondents (70%) are owners of businesses with 10 or fewer employees. The sample also consists of a large portion of women-owned businesses (69%) and minority-owned businesses (72%). Black business owners were less likely to have annual revenues of over $100,000 (23%) when compared to their white counterparts (50%). Black respondents (63%) were more likely to report an annual revenue of less than $25,000 than respondents of other racial demographics. Additionally, Black business owners reported having fewer than 10 employees more consistently than other racial demographics. Read the full report.
About Small Business Majority
Small Business Majority is a national small business organization that empowers America's diverse entrepreneurs to build a thriving and equitable economy. We engage our network of more than 85,000 small businesses and 1,500 business and community organizations to advocate for public policy solutions and deliver resources to entrepreneurs that promote equitable small business growth. Our deep connections with the small business community along with our scientific research enable us to educate the public about key issues impacting America’s entrepreneurs, with a special focus on advancing the smallest businesses and those facing systemic inequalities. Learn more about us on our website and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
About Start Small Think Big
Start Small Think Big is a nonprofit that helps small businesses with high potential and limited access to the resources needed to create thriving businesses. They connect small business owners to their network of professionals who provide legal, finance, and marketing expertise for free. Small business owners, partners, and volunteers are united in their determination to make a difference — one far greater than they could alone. When you support a small business, you support a dream. Visit startsmallthinkbig.org to learn more.