History of American Small Business
America has always been the land of opportunity. For centuries, people have come to America with the hopes of starting a new life and seizing all of the opportunities that the country presented them with. Every business that we know of today began as a dream, which then turned into a small business. As Calvin Coolidge once said, “The chief business of the American people is business.” These small businesses were the backbone of the country, and that continues to hold true today. Millions of people have started and developed a small business in America.
People who fought to get to America, whether as an immigrant, a refugee, or an explorer, have often had an entrepreneurial spirit. Entrepreneurship in America was seen throughout the country’s development. Great American entrepreneurs like Benjamin Franklin, P.T. Barnum, and Henry Ford had brilliant ideas that they took and used to begin their own small businesses. These Americans took their passion, drive, and capital and turned their ideas into functioning, profit-turning companies. These pioneers in small business set the example for what owning a small business in America would become and proved to many disbelievers that it was possible to follow one’s dreams.
Small business development dates as far back as the 1600s, when Americans would trade crops, supplies, and services. As the nation itself was developing, all businesses were small at that time. Machines were not yet available, and automation was unheard of. Transportation was extremely slow, and banks had not yet been established. America was still working out the groundwork for such things, including taxes. In the 1800s, after the nation become independent, small businesses really began to boom. The monetary system grew along with the burgeoning economy. As businesses started up and offered an increasing number and variety of products, more and more people began to show interest in what was being offered. Sometimes, these people did not have goods or services to barter with. Thus started the development of establishing credit with a small business owner. Credit coins and charge plates began being used in place of cash or the exchange of goods. These credit coins signified that a payment was due at a later date. Soon, credit card processing would be completely modernized and computerized. The credit card processing world began with the first bank card, called “Charg-It,” introduced in Brooklyn in 1946, and evolved with the expansion of a restaurant credit card, called the Diners Club card, to become a universal card accepted by a vast range of retailers.
As America grew, so did its small businesses. With the development of small businesses in the 1970s and 1980s, America was able to prove their stability. Many of the larger corporations at that time could not stand strong in the face of growing foreign competition, but small businesses rose to the challenge. Because small businesses began doing so well, people in the 1980s expressed great interest in entrepreneurship and thus, start-up companies expanded. Around that time, Silicon Valley became the center of the start-up world in California. Venture capital financing became very popular, and many people who had an idea wanted to turn it into a business.
Hundreds of schools across the nation have fostered Americans’ desire to start their own businesses and have since dedicated majors to entrepreneurship and small business ownership. In addition, interest in starting small businesses has inspired organizations like the U.S. Small Business Administration and Small Business Development Centers. Such organizations guide small businesses in the right direction so that they can grow and make a profit, and they have branches all over the United States. Organizations that help small businesses began with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), started by Hoover in the times of the Great Depression. The RFC provided loans for businesses that were hurt by the Depression and inspired future organizations that would help small businesses in America. Since their inception, these organizations have guided countless small businesses across the country and supported them in the development of their companies. This support can come in the form of small business loans and counseling sessions and continues to be offered to the small businesses in America today.
One simply cannot ignore the effect that small businesses have had on America: After all, every major corporation in the country today had to start small. Small businesses have forever changed the business landscape of the country. In fact, they are so important that one week of each year is National Small Business Week. Entrepreneurs and small-business owners across the nation continue to expand and develop new ideas each and every day, and with the ever-changing business model, America is sure to continue fostering unique, profit-turning businesses in the years to come.
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