They don’t wear masks and capes; can’t fly or swing from building to building, and they aren’t the subjects of their own comic books.
But if you’re looking to know some real-life superheroes, you needn’t travel to Metropolis or Gotham. You’ll find plenty of them just around the corner from where you work and live. Small business owners are America’s flesh-and-blood superheroes. Like their fictional counterparts, they are courageous, dedicated and boast exceptional talents.
Small business is the front line of defense in the American economy, generating jobs and tax revenues, and serving as a global incubator of innovation. In the private sector, 64 percent of net new jobs are generated by businesses with fewer than 500 employees. There are more than 27 million small businesses in the United States, of which about 3.7 million are microbusinesses, with fewer than ten employees.
While many small businesses do fail in their first few years, among those that survive, well over half are at least five years old, and about 25 percent of small employers have been generating jobs and paying taxes for more than two decades.
Despite conglomeration, the relentless encroachment from large corporate competitors, and the economic tsunami of 2007 and 2008 that washed away tens of thousands of small businesses, almost half of all Americans still can thank a small business for their job.
There’s something more, something extra, worth noting about small business owners that can’t be measured by sales volumes and statistics alone: As a group, they are model citizens. They started tiny and grew their own businesses, worked their tails off, jousted with hardship, paid their taxes, filed their permits, and converted an intangible vision into a solid economic reality.
Fictional Anthony “Tony” Stark, aka the Iron Man, became a self-made superhero and billionaire.
On the other hand, John Mackey and Rene Lawson Hardy (Whole Foods), Ruth and Elliot Handler (Mattel), Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel, and Gordon Bowker (Starbucks), and Pierre Omidyar (Ebay) are true-life change artists. Rather than slipping out of their business suits into their Supermen costumes, these action heroes – like thousands of others – morphed from rags to ultra-riches pursuing their small business dreams.
Whether it’s young Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) writing code in his Harvard dorm room, or the corner immigrant pushcart owner peddling food and drinks to feed her family, all of America’s hardworking small business owners have earned the right to call themselves super. In our view, each and every one of them is a hero.