Entrepreneurship covers a huge range of business endeavors, from the homemaker who makes, packages, and sells jams and jellies from his or her home to the plastics manufacturer who employs more than 500 workers in three factories.
Many people who own small businesses start small, often part time, from a home office and expand as the demand grows. They perform all the functions normally found in any business, including those of president, manager, manufacturer or service provider, secretary, accountant, investor, benefits administrator, salesperson, and maintenance engineer. Owners of home-based businesses might be involved in making and selling products, such as food items, jewelry, furniture, ceramics, or clothing. Or they might provide services, either performed in the home office or at other locations outside the home, such as writing and editing, telemarketing, housekeeping, computer programming, pet sitting, or catering.
Owners of these types of businesses can be quite successful for a long time, working completely on their own. They enjoy answering only to themselves and having control over every part of their work. They take all the responsibilities, suffer all the hardships, and reap all the rewards.
Consultants usually work independently out of their own homes or offices, although some work on a part- or full-time basis for consulting firms. Traditionally, consultants have provided professional expertise in such areas as marketing, public and media relations, business plan development, finances, productivity, automation, computer programming, and downsizing. Small, start-up businesses, mid-sized companies, large corporations, and governmental agencies frequently contract with consultants who have a specific area of business expertise. Successful home-based businesses often grow and expand, and the owner must decide how to handle the expansion. If the owner, for example, has started a ceramics business out of love for working with clay, he or she may decide to hire another person to handle business affairs, such as accounting, taxes, licenses, and bill payment.
The larger a business becomes, the more complicated its structure also becomes. In addition to managing the business, the owner has to manage people, and instead of providing a service or manufacturing a product personally, the owner must find workers, train them, monitor their work, provide a safe and productive work environment, and pay salaries and benefits.
A small business doesn't necessarily have to start as a home-based business. An entrepreneur with a somewhat larger investment capacity can start a business, such as a small restaurant, a public relations firm, a travel agency, or a secondhand clothing store, for example. The owner may get loans from a bank, the SBA, or a commercial finance company. In addition to the complicated financial arrangements, the plan for a small business includes such things as finding a market, establishing a presence in the community, creating a demand for the product or service, hiring capable staff, and monitoring quality control.
Another choice for entrepreneurs is to purchase a franchise, such as a fast food restaurant such as McDonald's, or a retail business such as Edible Arrangements. The franchiser lends its trademark or trade name and a business system to franchisees, who pay a royalty and often an initial fee for the right to do business under the franchiser's name and system. Entrepreneurs who choose this option have the security and support of the established name, a ready market, and a business system already in place.
According to the International Franchise Association, as of 2018, there were 733,000 franchise establishments in the United States, providing more than 7.6 million jobs and producing more than $674 billion in goods and services. A person can become an entrepreneur by taking over an already existing business. A son or daughter may take over from a parent who is retiring, a long-time employee may purchase a business from a boss, or someone could purchase a business without having previous ties. As with a franchise, the location is already established and outfitted with equipment and materials.
The Internet has opened a wide variety of opportunities, although dot-coms experienced hard times in the early 2000s. Creative entrepreneurs have found ways to use technology, not just to market and sell products and services, but as the basis of a business. For example, online researchers use databases, libraries, and catalogs to find information for their clients. Design and management of Web sites can be done by one person from a home computer or by a few people cooperating in a small business venture. Freelance writers, marketers, consultants, and similar occupations have all found success through online channels, and are considered a growing niche of entrepreneurs.