By Dr. William Oliver Hedgepeth
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics Management, at American Public University
In 2006, I started a trucking company with my daughter. We started with one refrigerated truck. We had a contract with the commissary at Fort Lee, Virginia, delivering grocery items to military locations in Virginia and West Virginia.
In addition to our truck and my daughter’s husband as the driver, we had a small office with three desks crammed into it. Life was good until “management” expanded the business by leasing nine trucks and increasing transportation orders.
In 2008, the fuel crisis and the recession hit us hard. Over the next two years, more than 10,000 small trucking companies went out of business.
We were not far behind them. We shut the doors of our trucks and office in 2010, victims of a small business startup.
2008 Recession Led to Small Business Failures and Some Success Stories
Small business has been the backbone of this country, but starting a small business today is risky. There are many stories of failure, but since the recession of 2008, there are many success stories too.
The Wall Street Journal ran a story on how startup businesses seem to be booming again. But many of them are run by one person with no employees. It’s just the owner, a dream and a willing global marketplace, thanks mostly to the Internet.
Over the past few years, small businesses run by lone entrepreneurs are increasing, mostly in manufacturing. According to the Wall Street Journal on December 29, 2016, there were more than 350,000 single-owner successful manufacturing businesses in 2014. The food business appears to be leading the way, followed by chemicals, transportation, leather, beverage and even tobacco.
Reasons for the Growth of Lone Entrepreneurs
Some one-person company operators offer several reasons for not hiring anyone. For one, having employees creates the morass of local, state and federal paperwork and taxes, such as unemployment taxes. Other owners say they did not want to be merely an employee; they wanted to be their own boss with their own dream and their own business.
Incubator organizations around the country provide startup space for manufacturing or producing goods or products. Entrepreneurial chefs can find space in an incubator kitchen to cook their specialties to sell at local farmers’ markets.
One person I know learned to make leather wallets. Using the Internet, he opened his business and was ready to grow.
Modern advances in technology have also proved useful. With a bit of imagination, 3D printers offer startup businesses the chance to manufacture anything from toys to tools.
I’ve become a lone entrepreneur myself. I purchased a small farm a few years ago and renovated an old barn and tractor to cultivate small portions of the land behind the house. Next summer, I will have another small crop of organically grown Silver Queen sweet corn. I plan to sell my crop to the area’s grocery chains because they like to purchase locally grown produce.
Taking Courses Online Can Prepare Entrepreneurs for Success
One of the most important aspects of being a one-person company is to take online courses in how to be an entrepreneur. If you pursue a college degree or certificate program in how to start and run a business, you have a better shot at turning that hobby – whether you make homemade jam, perfume, craft beer, soap or Christmas cards – into a viable business.
The integration of today’s manufacturing technology, the Internet, social media and a little innovation could be the means for your own career success. But be sure to do some online searches about what it takes to become a business owner and learn from the mistakes of other owners of small businesses.
About the Author
Dr. Oliver Hedgepeth is a professor of transportation and logistics at American Public University (APU). He is the former program director of Reverse Logistics Management and Transportation and Logistics Management. Prior to joining APU, Dr. Hedgepeth was a tenured associate professor of Logistics and chair of the Logistics Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. His book, RFID Metrics, was published in 2007 by CRC Press and is in revision.