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The Small Business Hustle

A small business in Cuenca, Ecuador

The only people who don’t acknowledge weekends are aristocrats and the self-employed.

Regrettably, I’m not the former. And yet my weekends are distinguished from the rest of the week largely by the delivery of the newspaper.

This week was National Small Business Week, an annual event celebrating and promoting small businesses and entrepreneurship. Ironically, the events were all scheduled from Monday to Friday; if they wanted to make it really authentic, they should’ve planned something for Saturday afternoon.

Being a small business owner and entrepreneur is both a privilege and a challenge. Small businesses create almost two-thirds of new jobs in the United States each year and employ more than half of all Americans. They are an important driver of our national economy, and they fill many of our needs and wants. But they also tend to be forgotten, toiling along quietly while big companies get all the glory (and, unfortunately, a big share of the business).

Small business owners tend to be misunderstood, too. The lack of discernible hobbies outside of their businesses and the tendency to spend long late-night hours on the computer may be criticized as symptoms of workaholism. On the flip side, people who work from home tend to hear a lot of jokes along the lines of “are you working hard or hardly working?”

Being an entrepreneur gives you the freedom to pursue your passions and create exactly the kind of life you desire (not to mention the freedom to work on the schedule you want). Creating Mockingbird Travel has been exciting, inspiring and fulfilling. But with great rewards come great risks: there’s no bi-weekly paycheck replenishing your bank account, no retirement plan, no paid vacation days. If you don’t work – or more specifically, if you don’t hustle – there’s no money. And even if you do hustle, there’s no guarantee that the business will succeed and the money will flow. Making the leap into entrepreneurship requires a great deal of chutzpah, along with stubborn determination and a healthy dose of blind optimism.

For small businesses to succeed, we need customers with chutzpah, too, people who are willing to take a chance on us and what we offer. I know it’s not the easiest thing to do. There’s a certain comfort and security that comes from buying a product or service from a well-established company: you know what you’re getting. But just because a product or service is new doesn’t mean it’s not as good as what the big guys are offering. In fact, there’s a very good chance that it’s better. It’s also helpful to remember that every business has to start somewhere; even the biggest companies started small.

Being a small business owner has taught me to appreciate things I took for granted before – including other small businesses. I have a new respect for all the new businesses that have come before me and managed to make it work. I try to support other small businesses whenever I can, and I encourage you to do the same. You never know, the small company you support today could be the next Apple; and when it finally explodes onto the scene, you can say that you were there in the beginning, helping to make it all possible.

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