American Express issued its third Amex Trendex: Small Business Edition, which found that even as small business owners surveyed face continued economic uncertainty, their personal drive and long-term aspirations are buoying their optimism.

“Small business owners are concerned about issues like pricing and cash flow forecasting, but they are overwhelmingly happy that they chose their career path as an entrepreneur, and most intend to be small business owners for the long run,” Gina Taylor Cotter, executive vice president and general manager, small business products and business blueprint at American Express, said. “We also found that growing up with technology and social media has influenced how Millennials and Gen-Zers operate as small business owners: they are more likely to start a company right out of school and rely on technology to run their business.”

Amidst pricing and cash flow forecasting concerns, small business owners’ drive and long-term aspirations keep them motivated.

Pricing/price hikes (44%) and cash flow forecasting (35%) are small business owner respondents’ top concerns, which is consistent with Amex Trendex findings over the past year. Nearly seven-in-10 (68%) wish that they had more time to focus on their product/service vs. managing their businesses’ finances. But, small business owners have a positive mindset despite these challenges: 95% of those surveyed are happy with their decision to start their company.

The Amex Trendex report found that small business owners are motivated by their long-term ambitions. Six-in-10 respondents (60%) expect their business to be a long-term venture and run for more than five years. When asked about their long-term business goals, longevity rose to the top (49%), followed by becoming an established leader in their industry (32%) and growing their employee base (24%).

As for why owners chose to start their small businesses: more than eight-in-10 respondents (84%) were inspired by a personal passion; nearly two-thirds (65%) saw a need in their community; about six-in-10 (59%) want to support their family and future generations; and over four-in-10 (44%) needed more flexible work.

Survey suggests that growing up with technology and social media influences how Millennials and Gen-Zers take to small business ownership.

Millennial and Gen-Z small business owners surveyed are most likely to have learned about entrepreneurism online or on social media (56%), compared to Gen-X and Boomers who knew an entrepreneur personally (47%).  And, while three-quarters (74%) of Gen-X and Boomer small business owners surveyed had a traditional job (private sector, government or another role in their current business) before starting their company, Millennials and Gen-Zers are more split and likelier to have started their business right out of school. About six-in-10 (59%) of Millennials and Gen-Zers surveyed had a traditional job before starting their business, but one-in-five (20%) Millennial and Gen-Z small business owners indicated they were students or unemployed before starting their business (vs. 3% of Gen-Xers and Boomers).

The survey also found that Millennial and Gen-Z small business owners, who grew up with technology, rely on it to run their business. When asked about the top contributing factors that helped them navigate the past few years, one-third (33%) of Millennials and Gen-Zers cited technology solutions vs. 18% of Gen-Xers and Boomers.

Millennial and Gen-Z small business owners surveyed are also more skeptical about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur than older generations. They are about twice as likely to think that “you have to be wealthy to start a business” (21% vs. 9%), that “true entrepreneurs do it alone” (29% vs. 15%) and one-third (33%) think that “entrepreneurs are born and not made” compared to 22% of Gen-Xers and Boomers.

Methodology

The survey of 1,127 U.S. small business financial decisionmakers was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of American Express from March 15 – 28, 2024. Participating respondents included 514 businesses with 10 employees or less; 412 businesses with 11-100 employees; and 201 businesses with 101 – 500 employees. The margin of error for the full survey sample is +/- 3 percentage points.