There are ‘small’ businesses. Then there are ‘tiny’ ones, concerned about the personal and social impact they make.
May 9, 2018 7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Our cultural myths drive us to build, perform and scale; but they drop us like a hot potato when we fail. When we win, everyone’s a fan. When we fail, things get awfully quiet.The media contributes to this culture, focusing on the big wins and the big fails: Big disrupters like Uber get lots of attention; so do the too-big-to-fail corporations, like Wells Fargo, which take up a lot of our precious shared mental space and from time to time knock against the walls in their halls of shame.The rest of us, in the middle, are regularly distracted by these “go big or go bust” myths. But, still, we go about quietly running our own businesses.
Then there is a subset in this verdant middle space — a vibrant population of what I call “tiny” businessses: laser-focused, mission-based enterprises that are about profit but also about meeting personal, lifestyle and social-impact goals.
Those involved in a “tiny” businesses are quietly changing the norm. They are where the magic is happening, where new ideas get a chance to take root and create new markets. This is the space where Etsy was born, where business has begun to look at radically clean supply chains, where farm-to-table restaurants have blossomed in cities and suburbs. And, speaking of food, this is the space where business owners actually eat dinner with their families at night and enjoy vacations
Profit with your promise: Exactly what do you need to create a tiny business?
Most important is the personal need to create the change you want to see in the world. Today, entrepreneurs like Caroline Duell of All Good Products have started and built niche empires with organic, clean ingredients. Adding fillers or non-organic products is considered anathema even if such moves widen the profit margin. An example? In the resort industry, Tara Spa has been quietly transforming environments for years.
Entrepreneurs like these know that to create a “tiny” business, they first have to ask these questions:
- Does my business solve a problem that’s important to me?
- Am I home for meals with family and friends, at minimum, 80 percent of the time?
- Is my supply chain clean and transparent?
- Am I recognized as a thought leader, business leader or change agent?
- Do I take time for my personal health and well-being?
Tiny business is where the transformative powers of business lie. We hear about small business being an engine of the economy. And according to the Small Business Association, small businesses make up 99.7 percent of U.S firms and two out every three jobs in the United States. The designation of “small” however, communicates only the size of a company. “Tiny” is a subset of “small,” where businesses understand the power of what they sell as a platform to create the change they want to see in the world.
Given the rise of the “tiny” and mission-based business movements, larger brands are watching, sometimes enviously.
Some of those big brands buy niche companies, allowing the brand to reach tiny-business customers while the back of the house does business as usual. Seth Goldman of Honest Tea did a deal with Coca-Cola to scale his brand. Most of us in the social business world held our breath to see if Coca-Cola would change Goldman’s ingredients or mission. But in fact the timing was right, and Honest Tea grew exponentially, meeting the built-up demand for a less sweetened, mass-marketed tea drink.
In that sense, the owners running tiny businesses can sincerely answer “yes” to the question: Does your work life, work for you? Perhaps you want to answer that question, too.