Main Content


03 May 2021

The UPS Store® Inside Small Business Survey Reveals Key Insights About Strength and Resiliency of Small Business Owners

The UPS Store, Inc. releases new data from the 2021 Inside Small Business Survey, exemplifying the strength and flexibility of small business owners in the wake of a mentally and economically challenging year.

Concern for Small Business Owners and Demonstrating Resiliency

Not surprisingly, The UPS Store® Inside Small Business Survey results reflect that the health and economic challenges in 2020 caused the vast majority of the general population (84 percent) to be concerned about small businesses closing in their area/town. Small businesses faced temporary shutdowns and other obstacles that reduced the number of customers that small businesses typically see during a given year. Though fewer small business owners said the pandemic has had a negative impact on them compared to the general population, survey results reveal that small business owners still had to adjust to these changes. 

  • 42 percent of small business owners indicated they had to make financial adaptations to their business, such as reducing expenditures, receiving government assistance or a business loan, or missing scheduled payments for things like rent or payroll.
  • 38 percent indicated they made operational changes, such as selling new or different products/services, selling online, offering curbside pickup and/or delivery, or closing one or more locations.
  • 37 percent said they had to make adjustments to their workforce, such as asking workers to work from home, reducing employees’ work hours or furloughing/laying off employees. 

These pivots, both big and small, reveal the adaptability of small business owners.

“Small business owners continue to impress with resiliency and quick-thinking during times none of us could have imagined,” said Tim Davis, president of The UPS Store, Inc. “From providing curbside services to creating online marketplaces, entrepreneurs hustled around the clock to make it work regardless of the circumstances—something we can all aspire to. Our franchisees nationwide are proud to continue to lend a helping hand to these small business owners as we all serve our customers and our communities.”

The pandemic has also affected public views of owning a small business and the stressors on small business owners, according to this year’s survey. Significantly fewer Americans this year say they’ve ever dreamed of starting their own small business (55 percent in 2021 vs. 63 percent in 2020, 65 percent in 2019, and 66 percent in 2018). This is conceivably due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the stories consumers are hearing about small businesses struggling to survive. 

On the contrary, “being your own boss” (48 percent) remains the most exciting aspect of owning a small business for the third year in a row. “Succeeding and taking pride in what you build” (43 percent), “making your own hours” (37 percent) and “financial independence” (37 percent) are the next most exciting aspects. While 2020 presented many challenges for entrepreneurs, many still view it as a path to independent success.

The UPS Store Inside Small Business Survey also exposed a few key differences between the general population and small business owners when it comes to current stressors. While the survey revealed that Americans are stressed about their family’s health and well-being (44 percent), the future of the nation (41 percent) and not being able to socialize/interact with others like they used to (36 percent), small business owners were more likely to choose money/finances (42 percent vs. 31 percent general population) and not having enough time to get things done (20 percent vs. 14 percent general population) as their top stressors.

Strengths of Small Businesses

Even in the wake of a historic pandemic, small businesses are coming out stronger when it comes to diversity, consumer support and more. The majority of the general population and small business owners agree that small businesses try to:

  • create jobs in the U.S. (77 percent and 83 percent respectively) 
  • ensure the well-being of their employees (73 percent and 82 percent) 
  • make a positive impact on society (71 percent and 79 percent) 
  • be environmentally responsible (66 percent and 67 percent) 
  • cultivate a diverse and inclusive workplace (63 percent and 62 percent). 

“This year’s Inside Small Business Survey results prove that small businesses continue to serve as the backbone of our economy,” said Davis. “Small business owners’ efforts in sustainability, diversity and job creation help unify communities and drive economic success.”

While 2020 marked a year of a global health crisis, the world also faced the realities of racism and deep-rooted biases. This year’s survey uncovered that small business owners are committed to creating a workforce that provides representation for all. Of small business owners who have employees, 47 percent say they are actively trying to increase the diversity of their workforce. Younger small business owners (aged 18-45) are significantly more likely than older small business owners (aged 46-75) to say they are actively trying to increase the diversity of their workforce (58 percent vs. 34 percent). 

Plus, majorities of both the general population and small business owners (56 percent and 67 percent, respectively) indicate that they’ve made plans within the past year to buy more products or services from small businesses, demonstrating the support entrepreneurs are receiving from their communities and peers. Many also say they are planning on buying more from:

  • women-owned small businesses (18 percent general population vs. 24 percent small business owners) 
  • black-owned small businesses (17 percent vs. 22 percent) 
  • veteran-owned small businesses (16 percent vs. 22 percent) 

In looking at those who say they’re planning to buy more from these types of businesses, The UPS Store Inside Small Business Survey revealed that small business owners are significantly more likely to say they’re doing so because of the close connection they have to the small business community. They either want to support people like them (58 percent vs. 34 percent of general population) or say they know a small business owner and want to help them (43 percent vs. 24 percent of general population). Other reasons include an overall desire to help others (55 percent of general population vs. 62 percent of small business owners) and wanting to support their local community (64 percent vs. 69 percent). 

Looking Ahead

The UPS Store Inside Small Business survey revealed that entrepreneurs are worried about what 2021 might hold, but there are ways for the public to actively support them beyond just making purchases. Around half (47 percent) of small business owners say their biggest worry for this year (2021) is the uncertain economic conditions, followed by lower sales (39 percent) and attracting new customers (32 percent). 

The data shows that small business owners say customers can help by buying their products and services (52 percent), but there are many other ways to help besides spending. Consumers can show their support by:

  • asking friends and family to support small businesses (30 percent) 
  • following local COVID-19 health guidelines (29 percent) 
  • giving businesses positive reviews or ratings online (26 percent) 
  • sharing honest feedback about how to improve their business (22 percent) 
  • treating small business employees with respect (20 percent) 

Additionally, one in six (16 percent) who have not made plans to buy more from small businesses say they don’t know where to find small businesses, women-owned small businesses, black-owned small businesses or veteran-owned small businesses. This statistic brings to light an opportunity to educate general consumers on how they can support the small business community, specifically through the actions listed above. The entrepreneur-to-consumer relationship, referencing both existing and potential customers, remains ever important as the world reopens over the next year.

The UPS Store 2021 Virtual Small Biz Challenge

To further support entrepreneurs nationwide, The UPS Store, Inc., Inc. magazine and Carla Hall are all teaming up for the third annual virtual “Small Biz Challenge.” This year’s virtual event will focus on celebrating small business owners who have adapted and persisted through the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Small business owners are looking forward to a post pandemic world and are focused on finding areas of strength in this changed environment,” said Carla Hall, celebrity chef, author, television host and moderator of “Small Biz Challenge: The Roundtable Discussion.” “Through the Small Biz Challenge, I look forward to learning more from a few of the small business owners who demonstrated tremendous strength over the last year.”

Entrepreneurs who participate will not only foster meaningful connections and gain advice from experts and their peers, but also have a chance to compete for $25,000, an editorial feature in an upcoming issue of Inc. magazine and on, and a video shoot. Small business owners are invited to enter The UPS Store 2021 Virtual Small Biz Challenge contest on and complete the online entry form by May 8 for a chance to participate.

On May 6, Hall will moderate “Small Biz Challenge: The Roundtable Discussion” with notable small business experts, Alexa von Tobel, Tristan Walker and Sarah Paiji Yoo. The four will share tips and advice on how they have adapted to continue moving their businesses forward, as well as share results from The UPS Store Inside Small Business Survey. 

For a visual representation of key results from The UPS Store Inside Small Business Survey, view the infographic here.

Survey methodology: The UPS Store commissioned TRUE Global Intelligence, the in-house research practice of FleishmanHillard, to conduct an online survey among U.S. adults 18 or older (n=1,000) and small business owners (n=250). Small business owners were defined as those owning a business with less than 500 employees. Results are representative of the general population by age and Census region, while results among small business owners are representative by gender and Census region. The margin of error for general consumers fell within +/- 3 percentage points, while the margin of error for small business owners fell within +/- 6 percentage points (both with a confidence interval of 95 percent). The survey was fielded February 5-15, 2021.


No purchase necessary.  Open only to individuals (U.S. residents, 18 or older) who own and operate an independent (non-franchised) small business (50 or fewer employees) in the U.S.  Entry submission period:  12:00am ET 3/22/2021 - 11:59pm ET 5/8/2021.  Up to five (5) finalists selected to compete must attend the Virtual Event.  Cash prizes awarded to finalists based on score in each business challenge (up to $70,000 in total prizes for the Virtual Event).  Visit  for complete official rules, including eligibility and judging criteria.  Void where prohibited.  Sponsored by The UPS Store, Inc., 6060 Cornerstone Court West San Diego, CA 92121 and Mansueto Ventures LLC, d.b.a Inc. Magazine, 250 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10007.

Back to Pressroom