Who Are Today’s American Entrepreneurs? A Snapshot of U.S. Small Business Owners

small business owner

Who are America’s small business owners and entrepreneurs? The answers vary depending on whom you ask. Some believe entrepreneurs are fast-growth tech businesses, while others insist true small business owners can only be found on Main Street.

While we don’t have a definitive answer, the people at Lendio examined several data sources, surveyed their customers and other business owners, and came up with a lot of interesting statistics about the small business owners of America.

See if you can relate to the characteristics below:

What do small business owners call themselves?

Titles used: Self-Employed, Business Owner, Creative Professional, Consultant, Freelancer, Independent Contractor, and Sales Rep/Agent/Broker

  • Millennials are far more likely to self-describe as Freelancers (11%) than are non-millennials (3%).
  • More Gen Xers call themselves Business Owners (16%) than millennials (10%) or boomers (13%).
  • Boomers are the most likely to self-describe as Self-Employed—47% choose this as the best description, compared with 29% of millennials and 37% of Gen Xers.
  • All like being their own boss and controlling their own schedules.

Small business owner demographics

Personal characteristics

  • More than 50% of small business owners in the U.S. are over 50 years old.
  • 64% are male and 36% are female.
  • 75+% are white, 10.3% are Hispanic, and 14.3% are a minority.
  • 9% are married.
  • 3% have at least some college education.
  • 2% are homeowners.
  • 2% live in major metro areas.

Independent workers


49% women and 51% men participate in the independent workforce.

  • 75% of women believe flexibility is more important than money.
  • 42% of women say they earn more money in independent work than in the regular workforce 52% of men.
  • 38% of women feel more secure in independent work vs. 49% of men.
  • 57% of women and 68% of men love being their own boss.
  • 56% of women and 63% of men don’t like answering to a boss.


Millennials are most likely of all demographics to want to work independently.

  • 19% work in short-term fixed contract jobs, 11% through temporary agencies.
  • 21% plan on building a bigger business in the next 2-3 years.
  • 38% say it’s harder to find work and keep a pipeline flowing, vs. 22% for non-millennials.
  • 33% feel socially isolated compared to 12.5% of boomers.
  • 41% are concerned with lack of benefits, compared to 27% of non-millennials.
  • 38% are worried about job
  • Only 53% are “highly satisfied” with independent work, compared to 72% of non-millennials.
  • 73% of millennial women enjoy the flexibility of independent work, compared to 57% of millennial men.

Gen Xers

  • 49% are driven by the desire for flexibility.
  • 47% think their previous employers did not recognize their value.
  • 51% say they will never go back to a traditional job, but they’re the most inclined to shift from independent work to traditional work and back again.
  • 50% earn more money working on their own.
  • 68% like being their own boss.
  • 22% started working independently following a job loss during the last recession.


  • Boomers are more satisfied and content with independent work than other demographics (76% vs. 58% for non-boomers).
  • Most embraced independent work because they were tired of corporate life—being transferred, downsized, regrouped, and relabeled.
  • They are looking for work that is more meaningful.
  • 16% work independently to supplement retirement income.
  • 73% plan to continue their independent work.
  • 8% plan on building bigger businesses.
  • 11% plan to retire over the next two to three years.
  • Boomer men feel more in control of their lives than boomer women do (72% vs. 58%).
  • Boomer women are more worried about their future (23%) than boomer men (12%).

Other Articles From AllBusiness.com:

Business characteristics

Number of employees

  • 74% have 1-9 employees.
  • 21% have 10-49 employees.
  • 5% have 50 or more employees.

Years in business

  • 45% have been in business 11 or more years.
  • 20% have been in business 6-10 years.
  • 14% have been in business 3-5 years.
  • 21% have been in business 0-2 years.


  • 49% have annual revenues between $100,000 and $1 million.
  • 25% earn between $1 million and $10 million.
  • 21% make less than $100,0000.
  • 5% earn more than $10 million.


  • 71% of small businesses are not growing (neither increasing revenues or adding employees); 29% are growing.
  • Younger independent workers are more likely than boomers to grow into employer small businesses.
  • 21% of millennial independents envision building a larger business in the near future, compared with 16% of Gen Xers.
  • More than half of all small businesses with employees were started by a solopreneur.

Owners of multiple businesses

  • A higher percentage of multi-business owners live in the South Atlantic region.
  • The more businesses a person owns, the more likely they are to be in different SIC industries.
  • There is typically an 8+ year gap between starting the first and second business. After that there’s a faster ramp up for starting subsequent businesses.
  • The more businesses someone owns, the less likely they are to be home-based businesses.
  • Multi-business owners are more likely than single business owners to have at least one business with 10-19 employees.
  • A high-risk credit rating for the oldest business does not necessarily translate into a high-risk credit rating for a business owner’s other businesses. However, a low-risk credit rating for the oldest business does appear to carry over to the other businesses.



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