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There are 32.5 million small businesses in the U.S. according to the Small Business Administration — that’s businesses with 500 or fewer employees, though the vast majority have far fewer than that. Still, they account for about 40% of private payroll in this country. And multiple recent surveys show they’re cautious about where things are headed. Then again, there are outliers.
Anna Hammond is founder and CEO of Matriark Foods. They take surplus food and remnants that would be wasted and turn them into products for schools, food banks, and even hospitals.
“We just launched the first climate neutral upcycled pasta sauces,” Hammond said.
She’s about to increase her staff from four to seven.
“You know I’m feeling pretty good and pretty hopeful, despite the state of the world,” she said. “I think inflation is causing some hesitancy to make changes for sure and many businesses are kind of tightening their belts.”
Matriark’s climate-friendly foods may still be in demand, but for many other small businesses, the mood can be summarized in one word: caution.
Anna Rathbun is chief investment officer of investment advisor CBIZ, which recently did several surveys of small and medium sized businesses.
“81% have told us they are expecting a recession in the coming months,” she said.
The National Federation of Independent Business surveyed its members, most of which have fewer than 20 employees. Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg asked what their top issue was.
The answer? Inflation.
The number two problem was the problem that used to be number one — the availability of qualified workers, Dunkelberg said.
Both CBIZ and the NFIB found hiring among small businesses fell in October overall. And yet, surveys show many small businesses do want to hire people, especially as the holidays approach.
“So we find ourselves in a weird conundrum, a rock and a hard place of expecting a recession and being cautious but at the same time needing help,” Rathbun with CBIZ said.
It is, she said, a very strange phenomenon. But when has anything not been strange in the last two years?
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