Tough economic times don’t phase entrepreneurs.
While small-business owners think Illinois’ economy shows no signs of turning around in the upcoming year, they still hope to successfully expand and grow their businesses, according to the Chicagoland Small Business Outlook Survey.
This trend was just one of many findings presented at the survey’s release event at the Schreiber Center on Jan. 19. The survey, which Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business carried out in partnership with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, asks small business owners about their biggest fears, hopes and plans for the future.
A major goal of the survey is to help the Chamber create programs to assist anyone who wants to start or grow a small business. Currently, the Chamber’s Small Business Development Center offers business owners free services such as strategic planning and market research.
A small business is defined as a company with less than 500 employees, according to the Chamber of Commerce. Of the small businesses surveyed, more than half had annual revenues less than $500,000 and fewer than 10 employees.
At a local level, entrepreneurs are looking to either start or grow their businesses in Rogers Park, according to Paul Reise, a project manager at the Rogers Park Business Alliance (RPBA).
“We field calls nearly daily from people looking to either move [or] expand into [Rogers Park] from somewhere else, or who have an idea and need help bringing that to fruition,” said Reise in an email to The Phoenix.
While entrepreneurs are traditionally over-optimistic when compared to the normal population, small business owners in Rogers Park may have reason to be optimistic: In a 2015 RPBA poll, 47 percent of respondents said their sales increased year to year and 33 percent said they were more profitable than before.
While the Chicagoland Small Business Outlook Survey doesn’t look at specific neighborhood trends, it’s apparent that the optimism Rogers Park business owners feel is shared by the Chicago small business scene — many entrepreneurs plan to grow their businesses during bad economic times. But is this over-optimism? Alexander Krasnikov P.h.D., the Quinlan professor who oversees the survey as part of his MBA-level marketing class, said he didn’t think so.
“When the economy worsens, it means that some businesses will exit,” said Krasnikov. “But it will also create opportunities and I think small businesses seek these opportunities.”
Krasnikov also said that small businesses are prepared to work through difficult economic conditions. He compared tough times to bad weather, saying that small business owners put on their metaphorical jackets to prepare for the cold.
“For them, [bad economic times] happen and they are prepared for how it will affect them, but they still want to grow,” he said.
Scarlett Ashton, a senior entrepreneurship major, said the survey results made her more hopeful about starting her own business.
“Most people would see these negative [economic] outlooks of small business owners and be less hopeful,” she said. “But you have to remember there are always opportunities present.”
Is this hopefulness a symptom of Ashton’s entrepreneurial optimism? According to her, definitely.
“[I] always try to find the good side of anything.”