Research Shows Small Business Need Help On Capital, Trade, and Technology

The Florida SBDC Network commissioned a survey in August 2022 to better understand the business environment for our state’s small businesses. Florida’s small businesses have been through several years of unprecedented challenges and external pressures that have impacted their operations. Throughout this time, our network has deployed survey research projects intentionally to deepen our understanding of the needs of the state’s small businesses. This study is just the latest in a series of our efforts to make data-driven decision making to guide our strategies, enhance our training and consulting, and amplify our outreach. 

Overall, this survey reiterated much of what we know the business community has been experiencing as they navigate the current economy. Small businesses have been dealing with increased costs, production and delivery delays, increased wage costs, and labor shortages. Despite that, many businesses were optimistic, expecting their personal sales, credit conditions, and the economy at large to improve.

In addition, we learned a lot about how businesses are operating, what they anticipate their next six months to be like, and what special projects and initiatives might most interest them. These data are useful to us as we make sure that our no-cost, one-on-one consulting and training opportunities reflect the needs of our communities. Some key findings from our research include:

Business Ownership Perceived as Very Difficult 

All survey respondents received questions about their perception of the difficulty of key elements of managing and running a business. Reviewing five categories of operating a business, respondents were asked to identify that category’s level of ease or difficulty. The consensus was that most people think owning a business is challenging, with the most difficult aspect of it accessing money to start, operate or expand a business.

Small business owners are the backbone of our economy – 99.8% of Florida’s businesses are small businesses. As such, the Florida SBDC Network aims to ease some of the difficulty of owning and operating a small business with our expert no-cost consulting serving all 67 of the state’s counties. One of our core service areas is access to capital – our consultants can help you identify opportunities for funding, as well as prepare business plans and documents that best prepare you for success in securing lending.

Business Investment and Capital Access

This year has been a period of rising interest rates and steep inflation, making capital access top-of-mind for many small businesses. According to the survey, about 58% of business owners were considering accessing a new capital source in the next six months, while just over half were considering making capital expenditures on equipment. While many (50%) would consider applying for an SBA loan, personal loans (39%) and credit cards (37%) were the other ways that respondents would look to finance their business costs.

Over the past couple of years, there has been some reporting on how the stimulus provided by the federal government during the pandemic was often used as investment to start businesses. Florida has reported off the charts business growth over the past few years, with new business applications jumping by more than 25% two years in a row. According to our survey, just over a fourth of respondents shared that they used federal stimulus dollars as business investment, as either start-up costs, expansion, or keeping their business afloat during hard times.

International Trade

Just over a third (36%) of our survey respondents had ever sold merchandise outside of the United States. Small businesses shared that there were several barriers preventing them from becoming an exporter, including that their goods or services were not exportable (39%); that they were not sure where to start (37%); or they felt expanding to exporting would be too expensive (28%). 

Exporters also identified some challenges that they had in sustaining or growing their exporting operations, including finding customers (49%); navigating foreign import rules (44%); and access to export financing (40%). Business owners also shared their top resources for determining and establishing new international trade markets, including web inquiries (54%); connections (51%); and trade shows (35%).

The Florida SBDC Network has a team of qualified international trade specialists ready to help you prepare to grow your business and reduce the barriers to exporting. In 2022, our network was awarded federal funding from the U.S. Small Business Association’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP).  STEP services provided by the Florida SBDC Network including funding that will be offered to eligible export clients as a reimbursement for costs incurred for export and trade related missions including:

  • Travel Reimbursement for Trade Shows/Export Missions 
  • Trade Mission Support – Concierge Services 
  • US Department of Commerce Single Company Promotions 
  • Translation of Export/Trade Show Materials
  • Export Credit Insurance Fees

STEP funding will also be utilized to support Export Marketing Plans.  The export marketing plans offered by our network – in partnership with Enterprise Florida – assists qualified new-to-export manufacturers and service providers with overseas growth strategies through the development of customized Export Marketing Plans. The Export Marketing Plan includes:

  • a thorough readiness assessment
  • industry and market analysis with target market recommendations
  • a review of overseas trade opportunities
  • and an action plan that may include trade mission participation.

Technology and R&D

Only 26% of small businesses have ever pursued any IP protection, according to our results. While 53% of our respondents were service-oriented, the remainder were producers of goods. Some businesses felt like commercialization wasn’t the right choice for them (36%), while others had tried to commercialize their products before but weren’t currently mass producing (40%). The remainder (24%) had successfully commercialized their products.

When those businesses pursued commercialization, respondents shared they most commonly used personal funding (53%) or grants (39%) to fund the effort. The Florida SBDC Network has experts available to assist in package development for two key programs, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR). These programs are highly competitive and encourage domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has the potential for commercialization. They were less often pursued by survey respondents, with 37% pursuing SBIR and 26% pursuing STTR. Expert, no-cost assistance helped reduce the burden on seeking this valuable funding to commercialize your business. 

To explore the results more, visit the dashboard here. To request consulting from one of our expert consultants across the state, complete the form here

About the Study

The “Business Environment” survey was conducted using a paid panel between August 25th and September 20th, 2022. Survey requirements included informed consent; age 18+; and Florida residents. Enforced quotas were placed to maintain racial and ethnic distributions according to overall Florida population numbers. Afterward, the gender field was weighted to reflect the Florida population and that weighting scheme has been used in the analysis and all of the following results. While we surveyed both business owners and the general public, the general public received only a handful of questions. Based on our response level and the population of 3 million businesses in the state, there is roughly a 2.5% Margin of Error at the 95% confidence level.