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What is a micro business?

In my first year of selling flowers, I would tell people that I had a "teeny, tiny, itty, bitty small business" when they asked me what I did (aside from teaching, tutoring, taking music lessons, getting another masters degree, and trying to maintain my sanity). As it turns out, "teeny, tiny, itty, bitty" isn't a very professional term, so I started calling it a "micro business" before I even knew that that was a legitimate term. I hear the term "small business" all the time, but it always seemed too, well, big for what I was doing.

Apart from feeling prescient once I discovered that a "micro business" was actually already a thing, I was immediately curious what the rest of the world defined a micro business as. Basically, a micro business (as the name would suggest) is just a smaller form of small business. So small, in fact, that typically it has less than 9 employees and less than $250,000 in sales. Which makes me wonder if I'm really more of a nano business. Is there something smaller than a nano particle? Because I think that's me then. But I guess micro business will have to do for now.

What does it mean to run a micro business?


I'm only beholden to myself! And my husband when he wants a seat on the couch next to me to watch a movie which is usually blocked by paper pieces and half completed bouquets. It means that I can pursue my specific passion, which is flower making, and then take it in whatever direction I want without worrying about how it will affect anyone other than me.

2. Total responsibility.

I am ultimately responsible for EVERYTHING, which for me, a micromanager, is okay. It also means that I can only do damage to myself, which for me is a relief. Any small or large business has a responsibility to its employees as well as itself; if the business goes down, that could be a lot of people (or even a few people's) livelihoods. That's a responsibility that I don't take lightly.

3. Accepting slow growth.

Martin Zwilling of notes that a micro business "will probably grow slowly and more organically" than a traditional small business startup approach. Without investors, lots of money to sink into dramatic advertising or hiring employees right off the bat, Mr. Zwilling's assessment is true. Accepting the micro business model means accepting slow growth as something worth celebrating. Which is why the passion part of it is so important.

4. Challenges: staffing and loans

Admittedly, I haven't even delved into hiring someone to work with me on Paper Perennial, but it might be hard to draw in good talent once I explain to the interviewee that my peak hours of production are evenings watching Marvel movies with my husband. I mean, maybe there's a deep pool of talent that's into that kind of lifestyle, but with the profit margins that I currently run on, it would be pretty hard to hire. Loans of all kinds intimidate me, so this is also not a challenge that I currently have to face, but if one day I wanted to expand to an actual brick and mortar shop, or needed to invest significant capital into the company, I'd probably have some trouble developing lines of credit with suppliers who think I might just up and quit one day (NEVER!).

5. An Introvert/Extrovert's dream?

Depending on the kind of micro business that one runs, this could go either way. Personally, I find it to be more of an introvert's dream, even though I'm in the most extroverted form of micro business: product development and retail. Unlike writing and self-publishing a novel or developing an app, retail requires a lot of networking and selling of both a product and oneself. I always find this difficult. I can stand in front of 150 teenagers on a daily basis and not feel at all insecure about telling them what to do with themselves, their lives, and even their money (who knew that financial planning advice was also part of a high school English teacher's job these days?) but when I have to talk to other adults, EEP! For me, though, I think it's good to be in a business that forces me to get out of my shy bubble. And I still have my quiet time making my products to help me recharge.

Have you ever considered starting a micro business? What do you think you would create/do/provide if you did? Looking for a good overview of categories of micro business? Check out this blog article from Envatotuts+ for a pretty thorough overview as well as the pros and cons of each.

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