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Entrepreneurship Engine: What’s Driving the Small Business Economy?

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Small business ownership has long been viewed as a cornerstone American value. While the COVID-19 pandemic’s long-ranging impacts on practices and perspectives across the U.S. economy have been widely reported, less time has been dedicated to understanding the current state of entrepreneurship in America following a tumultuous few years.

Exploring Americans’ attitudes toward entrepreneurship in the modern economy was the focus of a roundtable discussion among key national stakeholders moderated by The Hill and sponsored by U.S.-based, leading entrepreneur-led health and wellbeing company, Amway in late October.

U.S. Representatives John Moolenaar (R-MI) and Darren Soto (D-FL) joined Amway leaders, other policymakers, small business owners and advocates, and academic researchers for a robust discussion of Amway’s recent findings around the evolution of entrepreneurship post-pandemic.

This discussion centered on the findings of the latest Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report. After collecting data from more than 15,000 adults in 15 countries, the 2023 report found cause for optimism – specifically in the finding that nearly 6 in 10 people are interested in starting their own businesses, up from before the pandemic. 

“Small businesses are a staple of every community in my district and throughout Michigan. They help keep our communities strong,” said Rep. Moolenaar, a member of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations and Direct Selling Caucus. “It was a pleasure to join small business leaders to discuss the Global Entrepreneurship Report, and the incredible interest people have in starting a small business, being their own boss, and having workplace flexibility. They still face serious challenges though, including inflation and finding workers. I will continue my work to pass policies that support the American dream and help small business owners succeed.” 

“It was great to attend the roundtable event in Washington, D.C., to connect with small business owners and entrepreneurs,” said Rep. Soto, a member of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee and Direct Selling Caucus. “As we’ve seen during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses are the backbone of our economy – when they thrive, our communities thrive. With my home state of Florida leading the way with 1.6 million small business applications, I’m committed to continuing our important work to empower small business owners in Central Florida and across the nation.”

The event also featured Amway Independent Business Owner Mandy Yamamoto, who shared her story of how the Amway business model boosted her opportunities for success, as well as advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Those surveyed in Amway’s report saw raising initial capital as less of a challenge than before, even as they continue to cite that challenge as the biggest obstacle to business ownership, and more feel they have the necessary resources to start a business. The report found that the massive growth of e-commerce and digital technology during the pandemic has resulted in increased consumer comfort with buying products through social media, creating new opportunities for businesses to meet people where they are, make connections, and market what they do. More than half of those people surveyed said they knew someone who has a business, making the prospect of business ownership more desirable. 

Overall, the survey found that the world is more ready than ever to embrace entrepreneurship.    

Digging deeper to explore this new normal, the organizers of Amway’s roundtable discussion posed a series of preliminary questions: How did the COVID-19 pandemic change the meaning of “business as usual” for entrepreneurs and small business owners? What gives aspiring entrepreneurs hope? How is technology changing the game? What are the largest motivators and barriers to starting a small business today? And how might this increase in entrepreneurial spirit change the economy at large? 

The roundtable discussion yielded insights on providing access to education, training, and resources for aspiring entrepreneurs; the role of technology, particularly AI, in marketing and content creation as well as the need for a balance between regulation and innovation in the use of AI; the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion in entrepreneurship; and the role of chambers of commerce and associations in advocating for small businesses. 

While perspectives and opinions on many issues varied, all participants expressed optimism about the future of entrepreneurism and the need for continued support and investment in the ecosystem.