Great Resignation fueling rise in small businesses

Transportation and tech are popular startup categories in Wisconsin.
Feature Smallbusinessweek Panel

Millions of Americans have quit their jobs during the Great Resignation. Many have opted to become their own boss, resulting in a record number of new business applications, especially as the pandemic has worn on employees. A new study from SurePayroll found:

  • Google searches for “how to start a small business” jumped 124% in the first six months of the pandemic; and
  • Searches for “easy business to start up” increased 84% between March 2020 and September 2021.

The study also highlights what small businesses people in each state are most interested in starting. Boutique clothing stores top the list nationwide, home renovation businesses come in second, and there’s also a high interest in starting Etsy shops. The most popular business startup search in Wisconsin is transportation, according to SurePayroll data, which analyzed more than 600 Google search terms related to starting small businesses to complete this study.

The September–October 2021 study sought to identify the most popular type of businesses Americans in each state dream about opening. The majority of Google searchers keyed in on how to start five small business types: clothing/boutique, home/yard renovation, online retail, food, and fitness.

“Small business owners, as well as those who dream of one day lighting an ‘open for business sign,’ recognize the value in learning about factors shaping the marketplace,” says John Cumbee, SurePayroll general manager. “Our search term analysis indicates that whether someone is ready to pursue small business ownership or expand and grow existing operations, understanding the competitive landscape is an important consideration.”

Most popular businesses startup searches by state

Opening a boutique clothing store is the most popular Google search in Alabama, Kentucky, and seven other states. Home renovation and landscaping businesses tied with opening an online retail outlet — ala an Etsy or Amazon store — as the second most frequently searched small business type by state.

While there was commonality across the 50 states when it came to Google searches, three states — Georgia, Massachusetts, and Michigan — stood alone. In these three states, aspiring small business owners focused on how to start a business around home rentals and Airbnb, consulting, or woodworking, respectively.

Small business growth remains vigorous

Small businesses represent 99% — or approximately 31 million — of all businesses in the country. Small business growth is expected to pop up in cities large and small from coast to coast as people reshape their career dreams.

“Small businesses employ roughly half of the American workforce, accounting for up to 65% of net new jobs annually,” notes Cumbee. “Not even a pandemic slowed the American entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, it may have even lent a jumpstart to small business startups.” In the third quarter of 2021, 1.31 million new business applications were filed.

According to a June 2021 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, new business applications from the second half of 2020 through May 2021 mark the greatest on record since 2004.

The average monthly Google searches for “how to start a small business” in the U.S. increased 124% between the initial acceleration of COVID-19 in March 2020 and August 2020.

COVID-19 impacts small business curiosity

The analysis also reviewed generic phrases to see how the onset of the pandemic influenced Americans and their interest in small businesses. The analysis considered per capita state averages to compare select search term performance from the pandemic start in March 2020 through September 2021.The average number of monthly searches for “easy business to start up” jumped 84% and “how to start an LLC” rose 83% during the analysis timeframe.

Wisconsin startups tackling real-world problems

Interestingly, while the SurePayroll data indicates residents in the Badger State are searching for information on transportation startups, possibly in an effort to tackle supply chain problems head on, there are a host of other pertinent problems Wisconsinites are looking to solve with their startup endeavors.

According to WisconsinInno’s list of 10 Wisconsin startups to watch in 2022, tech startups aimed at making connections and securing data are some of the hottest trends here at home.

In Madison, two startups made the list — Appcelerator and Internship on Demand. Both are taking different approaches to helping solve labor issues that are plaguing most industries.

Appcelerator was co-founded by Innocent Okechukwu and Chelsea Perry and offers Appcelerator Prep, an online mentorship marketplace for diverse talent. Its mission is to increase opportunities for underrepresented workers and help companies broaden their diversity recruitment efforts. Mentors can also earn money through the platform.

Co-founded by Keegan Moldenhauer and Milwaukee Tool design engineer Ryan McKernan, Internship on Demand was originally started to help students who lost their summer internships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It creates custom virtual pre-internship and internship programs, with a focus on boosting talent training and employee retention for companies.

Click here to sign up for the free IB Ezine — your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.