Top Microbusiness Opportunities for 2010

Microbusiness ownersFrom what I’ve been hearing, a sizable number of folks are looking forward to 2010 – operating on the theory that, at this point, there’s pretty much nowhere to go but up.

Given how much of the U.S. economy’s unexpected third quarter growth in 2009 was fueled by the Cash for Clunkers program (no pun intended), it’s an open question as to whether we can expect continued growth from the fourth quarter. Even then, with the job market doing what it’s doing, the U.S. economy will undoubtedly limp well into 2010.

But there’s no reason to imagine that there are no opportunities to be had in a sluggish economy, as any astute student of entrepreneurship will tell you. And right now is a particularly good time to run a lean, efficient microbusiness that doesn’t need a bank loan to chase growth prospects.

Parenthetically, this seemed like a good opportunity for me to make a point.

If you take a look at the following list, you will note that there’s a lot here that the average microbusiness owner won’t know anything at all about if they are not paying attention to what is happening in Washington. Something similar can probably be said for the action in your state house, too.

There are other reasons besides taking sides to be paying attention to public policy. The big boys all know that; it’s high time for small and microbusiness owners to learn it, too:

  1. Federal contracting. Plenty of people will tell you that microbusinesses are too small to fulfill government contracts but I’m not one of them. There is still plenty of money appropriated for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) projects that hasn’t gone out the door yet. For microbusiness contractors in construction and related sectors, there will be plenty of contracting and subcontracting opportunities.If you want to get in the game, be sure to register in the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) database and visit the SBA’s Online Training Center to learn more about winning federal contracts.
  2. Clean energy. Climate change legislation has taken a back seat to health care reform in the Senate, so not much has happened there — yet. But, since the House has already passed their version of this bill, we can expect action in the Senate next year. That matters to micros anywhere in the energy sector, whether they manufacture wind turbines or develop energy technologies or grow rapeseed for biofuel. There are already some tax incentives here; once legislation is signed into law, there will be all sorts of private and public sector investments available.
  3. Energy efficiency. Similarly, with the President firmly committed to “reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” the other element of the energy independence framework is cutting down on everybody’s energy use. That means any microbusiness that is in the business of conservation or efficiency, whether it’s manufacturing products or offering consulting services or efficient construction, should do very well, especially later in the year after (presumably) the climate change bill is signed by the President.
  4. Health care. With the push for health care reform entering its final phase in the Senate, I do think President Obama will find himself with something to sign early next year. It’s probable that nobody will be entirely happy with the result — many Democrats will continue to lament the demise of the public option, while Republicans will simply lament the whole thing — but for the savvy, innovative microbusiness operating in the health care sector, it offers an opportunity to cash in on a new market landscape.
  5. Bootstrapping 101. We’ve been hearing about access to capital throughout 2009 but nobody knows how long it will be before the banks stop twitching and start lending. Even then, many new small business owners are going to want to avoid debt until they feel confident that their venture is truly up and running. For them, any management consultant, coach or other business service provider who can offer training and techniques in bootstrapping will be a godsend.
  6. Business services for newbies. It’ll be a couple of years before we see the numbers but 2008 and 2009 witnessed an avalanche of new nonemployer businesses unless I miss my guess. (A recent tweet from Emergent’s Steve King quoted that, evidently, more small businesses were born in the U.S. in 2008 than babies.) Many of those firms will be too new to be able to afford outsourcing but there will still be a large and growing market for various services to all those single person businesses.
  7. Social media. It’s kind of disconcerting how easy it is to proclaim yourself a social media guru, although it is less credible when you only have 31 followers on your twitter profile (as one of my tweeps recently pointed out). On the other hand, with so many charlatans around, its a good place for real social media gurus with happy customers to vouch for them and provide referrals. Lots of opportunity among small, mid-sized and even large firms that want to dive in but lack both time (staff) and expertise.

Dawn R. Rivers Dawn R. Rivers, an award-winning small business journalist, regularly reports and analyzes small business policy and research as the publisher of the MicroEnterprise Journal. She also publishes research at the Microbusiness Research Institute and she blogs at The MicroEnterprise Journal Blog.

15 Reactions
  1. Thanks Dawn

    That really did give me food for thought. I feel 2010 is the year for a small business outsourcing explosion and some of these key areas in your article are going to be big targets.

    Enjoyed reading it.

    Leigh Kostiainen

  2. Indeed, there is no way to go but up for 2010, with the economy recovering, Small business owners will certaintly experience an explosion in sales, and for those that haven’t started a Small business yet, now is the perfect time.
    Action is the foundational key to all success, you have to act at the right time and at the right opportunity, and now is the time.

  3. Good grief. Four of the seven “opportunities” listed in this post are in some way or another connected to the government and public policy. Government should not be the foundation for any business – small, medium or large. Microbusinesses should be mindful to whom they hitch their wagon…

  4. Dawn Rivers Baker


    I’m not suggesting that government should be the foundation of any business but it would be foolish to deny that activity on the part of the government has an impact on where dollars flow in the marketplace. Refusing to look at that impact simply on the basis of political philosophy is, in my opinion, short sighted. Microsoft and Intel and Exxon all know this; we should, too.

  5. @Debra I agree with your point entirely.

    @Dawn You’re also right. No need to miss an opportunity.

    In general I like the optimism of small businesses. They’re out there working hard and making money the old-fashioned way; by spending less than they earn. Hopefully the federal government will pick up on that idea.

  6. Dawn Rivers Baker

    @ Robert

    The government spend less than they earn? I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. 🙂

  7. Dawn,

    Thank you so much for this fantastic article.

    The two standouts, in my opinion, for growth will be;

    1. Health Care businesses
    2. Clean-Green Energy businesses

    There is a huge need, and hopefully, some savvy entrepreneurs can fill it.

    The Franchise King

  8. Young, Fabulous & Self-Employed

    This is a great article. I would also include: Green Construction.

    The construction industry is in a slump, but companies that specialize in green building are bucking the trend. The overall green building market is expected to more than double from $49 billion today to approximately $140 billion by 2013, according to a report from McGraw-Hill.

    A growing consumer awareness of the advantages of sustainable homes and buildings, along with the increased government focus on environmental initiatives, will only bring more opportunities in this arena. Businesses that position themselves as both eco-friendly and affordable stand to benefit even more.

  9. Thanks for providing reasons to look forward to 2010. And I suspect technology will be a big part of running a lean, efficient microbusiness.

  10. Dawn: Is nonemployer businesses listed under the microbusiness category? I have been listening to some of your new podcast shows.

  11. @ Martin

    Yes, nonemployers are a subset of the microbusiness universe. Micros are defined as firms with fewer than five employees. Nonemployers are firms with no paid employees outside the business owner(s), which means they certainly fit the micro definition. They are, in fact, the largest portion of the microbusiness population, comprising about 80% of it.

    Glad to hear you’ve been listening to my podcasts! Hope you’re finding them informative and helpful.

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