Today marks the beginning of “National Small Business Week,” the U. S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 50th annual celebration of the essential contribution of entrepreneurs and small business owners to American innovation and economic growth. The courage to create something new; the passion for entrepreneurship; the belief in the power of a good idea — these qualities have always fueled progress and prosperity in this country. Small wonder, then, that a recent poll found that 68 percent of Americans would rather patronize a small business.
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 23 years old when I launched my first startup. The struggles and challenges I faced during that time still inform who I am and what I do today, and even now while leading a large company like PayPal, I often look at problems and opportunities through the lens of a startup owner. Two weeks ago, I spent an inspiring day visiting small businesses here in San Francisco and felt first hand their pressures, challenges and passions — which took me back to my early days.
There is evidence that the entrepreneurial instinct in the United States has declined noticeably in recent years. In 1982, one in five workers in this country was employed by a company that had been in business for less than five years. By 2011, the gap had increased to one in nine. Meanwhile, for the first time on record, more Americans work for companies with more than 500 employees than for those with fewer. This shift isn’t good for anyone, especially for everyday consumers. Big businesses have advantages that come with greater scale and global reach, but in looking back it’s clear the vitality of our national economy was built on a thriving small business sector. This is where companies are nimble and better in touch with their customers and local communities. It is also where small business owners’ passion has the power to transform our economy.