Small Retail Business Owner
As a small business owner, you will be interacting with customers, clients and the
community at all times. Succeeding in this business requires working knowledge of
economics, sales, accounting, material culture, and communication. You will be working
within a small circle of a local economy and potentially competing with larger corporate
stores. Marketing your environmental specialty will help you differentiate yourself. For
instance, perhaps you predominately buy and sell local products and work to support of the
local community through your small business goals.
Formal education in business management is not required but experience managing a store
is highly beneficial. As it involves a considerable amount of risk, it would be quite
unadvisable to open a store without some experience in the retail sector. You should also
complete a thorough evaluation of the local market for what good you’re selling or service
One important part about being a small business owner is that it can relate to almost any
environmental issue you have a passion for, especially those having to do with building
community. You can essentially use your store as a platform for your causes. You could
also use your position as a well-known representative of the community to influence the
direction of local politics.
Small, local, independent business owner (Small business: any business with fewer than
Job Title 500 employees, including self-employed individuals)
PhD Masters Bachelors Associate Trade School Other
Not Typically Not Not required
Education Not required required required required
International Regional States Density Employers Top Schools
Yes All of US All
Self-employed 1. Harvard
Location 2. Stanford
Salary Range Hours Benefits Atmosphere
Working 40 hours/ Self-
Conditions Median: week provided Office, fieldwork, collaborative
Skills Business knowledge, knowledge of specialty area or specific skill or group of products,
marketing, people skills, accounting
Manage store: accounting, clients, paperwork, employees, customer service, stocking,
Responsibilities cashier, organization, design, mission and direction
US News and World Report 2009
A Day in the Life…
A day in the life of a small business owner is typically quite eventful. This is
one particular career where your work is very closely tied to your life. This
arrangement works well for people who are particularly passionate about
their area of knowledge, their products and their services. It also works well
for people who want to be their own boss and who want a diverse range of
activities during one day.
A typical small business owner works full days, more than five days a
week, and can certainly bring work home with them. They may spend their
day at their store/office doing some paper work or working directly with
customers. They may also often spend it meeting with clients and other
relationship building activities. There is usually a great deal of freedom and
daily variety associated with owning a small business - it is not your
conventional office job. However, freedom is constrained in other ways.
The owner carries the bulk of the responsibilities for the success and
operation of the store.
Projected Career Outlook
The truth is that many small business start ups do fail. It is suggested that
80% or new businesses fail within the first five years (US Dept. of Labor).
Starting a business can be a very risky move without proper market
analysis and planning, among other things. The good news is that people
will always need goods and services; the field, in general, is not ultimately
subject to trends. However, the types of businesses that do well are subject
to this kind of social variability. In the recent past, local, independent
businesses have been slowly beaten and bought out by larger corporations
that can often offer consumers a lower price. However, local shops in
certain geographic pockets have been enjoying a recent boom in popularity
According to the US Dept of Labor, “America’s economy depends on small
businesses for its vitality and growth. According to the 1997 report of the
U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s 17 million small, non-farm businesses
constituted 99.7 per cent of all employers…Small businesses are also most
likely to generate jobs for young workers, older workers and women,
provide 67 percent of first jobs and produce 55 percent of innovations.”
Education and Preparation
There is no strict formula to prepare for being a small business owner.
Formal education in business is certainly a good start but not entirely
necessary. More useful would be education or experience in the area in
which the business will specialize. For instance, this experience may
include extensive knowledge of coffee and pastries to run a café.
Experience running a business through managerial positions has been
noted as invaluable (personal interview with small business owner).
A small business owner should be willing to chat with people and form
social relationships. They should be patient and good at listening to their
customers. In the case of a retail shop, they may need to be good at
separating their mood from their outward persona so as to make people
feel at ease in the store.
As the owner of a small business, you are self-employed. This sounds ideal
to many people but it belies the hard work, planning and preparation that is
involved in opening and running a business. Many things in the owner’s life
must “line up correctly” in order for the business to be successful. For
instance, you must have good credit to get loans and acquire the
necessary capital associated with buying merchandise, renting a space,
completing the required paperwork, and conducting market research.
Related Environmental Careers
Many other environmental careers are related to small business ownership.
Most closely related would be something along the lines of grassroots
activism and organization. You could also go the other direction and use
your business knowledge and passion for the environment to work with
bigger companies, becoming a director of sustainable company initiatives,
Ecopreneuring: Putting Purpose and the Planet Before Profits – Ivanko / Kivirist
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It
- Michael E. Gerber
75 Green Businesses You Can Start to Make Money and Make A Difference - Ph. D.
US Dept of Labor – www.dol.gov
US Small Business Administration – www.sba.gov
Small Business Resources - www.irs.gov/businesses/small
Researched and Authored by Patty Gut