While already self-employed, Johanna C. Dominguez wanted to connect with her community more. She opted to get a part-time job at a local nursery, leading her to open her small business. Michele Cagan started her company to have more control over her time while prioritizing her health and family. While in different industries, both have found entrepreneurship as rewarding as it is challenging.

Cagan and Dominguez represent a small part of women-owned businesses. According to The 2024 Wells Fargo Impact of Women-Owned Business Report, women-owned businesses represent 39.1 percent of all U.S. businesses, growing by 13.6 percent between 2019 and 2023.

And the growth of small businesses in the U.S. shows no sign of slowing down. Hundreds of thousands of people start new businesses every month, with the U.S. Census Bureau’s data showing 432,517 business applications filed in April 2024 alone.

As May began with National Small Business Week — and National Small Business Day is May 10 — we interviewed Cagan and Dominguez about their businesses and a day in their lives to find out what it’s like to run a small business in the U.S.

Bankrate insight

May is also Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month. In 2020, it was estimated there were over 3 million AANHPI-owned businesses in the U.S., employing over five million people.

A day in the life of two entrepreneurs

There are many reasons why people decide to open a small business or venture into entrepreneurship. While you can find loads of information and how-to videos online of people starting side hustles and businesses, it doesn’t always reflect the reality of daily life for most small business owners.

To learn more about what a day in the life is really like, we interviewed two entrepreneurs and asked them to share their experiences. Read on to see what they had to say about it and what they want others to know, lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

Michele Cagan

Michele Cagan is a CPA and the author of “Starting A Business 101.” Michele aims to help women become financially empowered and feel secure with their finances. She specializes in personal and business finances, including one-on-one coaching, business support services and taxes.

Michele began her business as a side hustle in 2010, and in 2017, she took it full-time.

How did you become an entrepreneur?

I started doing it as a side gig and began to expand. Then when my regular job got downsized I decided to go all in. I knew I could help a lot of people, especially doing it my way.

What inspired you to start a small business?

I wanted to have more control over my time, the content I was writing, and the clients I was working with. I wanted the flexibility to be there for my family (I’m a single mom). And, honestly, I live with chronic illness and wanted to prioritize myself and my health whenever I needed to.

What is a typical day in your life like?

I usually start working between 9-10 and end by 3 or 4. I used to work crazy hours, but now build my work schedule around my life instead of the other way around. In a typical week, I spend time directly interacting with clients through coaching and support, working on their accounting and taxes, and a lot of writing (I’m currently working on a book called “Taxes 101”). I do team check-ins most work days — my employees are all fully remote but we stay connected.

Are there any myths about entrepreneurship that you want to debunk?

It’s harder and sometimes lonelier than people think. It takes a lot of time and work to build a sustainably successful business. And having a successful business will NOT save you money in taxes!

What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own business?

Make a plan before you dive in, because great ideas don’t always lead to profitable businesses. Don’t try to do everything yourself, get help where you need it and for things you just don’t want to do.

What’s one thing you wish you knew before starting a business?

Not to underprice my services. It’s super common among women to undervalue the products and services they provide. And also to not give away my time and experience for free (another common thing new women business owners do).

Johanna C. Dominguez

Johanna C. Dominguez owns Put a Plant On It, Inc., in Buffalo, NY. Put a Plant on It is a full-service houseplant shop specializing in rare and common plants. Along with selling plants, some of the other services the shop offers include repotting, houseplant hospital, interior decorating and moss and plant wall installations. You can also find local artists’ work for sale inside the shop.

Johanna began her business at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the store will celebrate its fourth anniversary in August.

How did you become an entrepreneur?

Kind of by accident! I was already working for myself doing nonprofit consulting, social media content creation, and photography. I thought I needed to be around people more so I started a part-time position at a local nursery. I kept giving suggestions to this nursery and every suggestion was shot down. A good friend of mine suggested I start my own shop with my ideas.

What was the inspiration behind starting your small business?

I really wanted to do something that offered a lot to my community and something that was lacking. There used to be a plant store across the street from my location that closed several years ago. Many people have come in and thanked us for all that we bring to the community. I love being part of a neighborhood and love helping people with issues that arise with their plants.

It has really made me realize the importance of shopping local and how it differs from big box stores.

What is a typical day in your life like?

Retail, especially a customer service based retail like ours, requires a huge range of skills that I never used in any of my other jobs. As someone who has also been diagnosed with ADHD for over 30 yrs, I also find that no job fits me better. Mostly this is because no day is the same.

I usually wake up pretty early and start replying to emails and social media messages and comments while I sip my coffee. Sometimes I will work on and edit a social media graphic (or) video while at home.

Throughout the day we water plants and make sure all are looking their best. This may involve leaf-shining them, removing dead leaves, downpotting or uppotting. Customers are required to make an appointment in order to utilize our services and they do this directly on our website. We have regular clients that we service regularly and we take care of their plants.

There are very few times that we have downtime. Our stock is all mostly alive and it involves a lot of work to make sure it all looks their best. Work doesn’t end once we close up though. I don’t expect my coworkers to be “on call” after business hours, but I am. So my evenings are often spent replying to messages and emails that come in after hours.

What’s a myth about entrepreneurship you want to debunk?

That being an entrepreneur gives you freedom. Sure it does to some extent but it isn’t a 9-5. You are working 24/7. Or at least should be working around the clock. You have to think twice about going away or not being accessible to your coworkers by going on vacation or out of cell service.

I’d also like to debunk that all entrepreneurs are motivated by money. That may be true for some, but it is not true for all.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start their own business?

I would like to tell them to think about their business idea and write out a business plan. This was extremely helpful when I was starting my business. I also visited and talked with other business owners in the area that had similar businesses.

Bankrate insight

Bank of America’s 2023 Small Business Owner Report found that 91 percent of business owners say they have a business plan, and most assess and adjust that plan at least once a year. Of those who have a business plan, 46 percent review it once a quarter.

I’d also recommend joining some online communities that are in the niche that you want to open your business. I was in various houseplant communities — both local and national and even worldwide. I listened to what others were looking for and wanting. Listening is very important. I also think I would like to stress the importance of being flexible. You do not have to follow your plan 100%. There’s been plenty of things that we’ve added or not implemented from the original plan.

Key insights about small businesses

  • In 2020, there were 32.9 million employer and nonemployer businesses in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Small businesses encompass 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses (U.S. Small Business Administration)
  • In 2021, it was estimated that 21% of U.S. businesses were minority-owned, and 5.2% were veteran-owned. (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Small businesses employ 45.9% of U.S. employees (U.S. Census Bureau)
  • Women-owned businesses employed 12.2 million people and generated $2.7 trillion in 2023. (Wells Fargo)
  • The top challenges small business owners faced in Q1 2024 were inflation costs, revenue challenges and interest rates rising (Small Business Index)

What is National Small Business Week?

For over 60 years, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the President of the United States have honored small businesses in the U.S. through National Small Business Week. The week is dedicated to celebrating small businesses and their impact on the local and national economy, the hard work and resilience it takes to run a small business and the innovation and change entrepreneurs drive.

Many small business organizations hold events in honor of National Small Business Week. For example, the SBA has a Virtual Summit that’s free to attend, which includes educational webinars, business resources and networking opportunities. In the past, the U.S. Census Bureau and the IRS have also provided additional free resources for small business owners to help grow and sustain their businesses.

There is also an award presented by the SBA and given to small businesses in every state, Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico, highlighting businesses, entrepreneurs, lenders, investors and advisors dedicated to impacting local communities and their commitment to small businesses.

Bankrate insight

Along with educational programs and small business resources, the SBA offers several types of business loans. While SBA loans can have strict eligibility requirements, there are set interest rate maximums and lower fees, making them more accessible to businesses that may have been rejected for other types of financing.

When is National Small Business Week?

Traditionally, National Small Business Week is held the last week of April. National Small Business Week 2024 is from April 28 to May 4.

How to support small businesses

While National Small Business Week, National Small Business Day and Small Business Saturday are three designated times to support small businesses, it’s essential that small businesses receive support year-round.

American Express’s Shop Small map is a great place to start if you want to support small businesses locally. You can search by location to find small businesses in your area. Another option is to check your city’s tourism website or local business associations. In most cases, you’ll find a directory of local businesses, along with other helpful information related to your community.

For a wider reach, consider purchasing from Etsy. Not only can you find local businesses, but you can also make purchases from small businesses across the country.

By supporting small businesses, you’re not only helping an entrepreneur succeed, you’re also positively impacting your community. Small businesses are more likely to give back to their communities, help create a more resilient local economy and drive local job creation.

From 2013 to 2023, small businesses have contributed 55 percent to the total net job creation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. American Express’s 2022 Small Business Economic Impact Study also found that 68 cents of every dollar spent at a small business in the U.S. stays in the local community.

Along with supporting the local economy, SCORE states small businesses donate 250 percent more than larger businesses to local nonprofits and community causes, with 75 percent of small businesses donating an average of 6 percent of their profits to charity.

Bankrate insight

Women- and minority-owned businesses are more likely to support their communities and give back. If you want to learn more about minority-owned businesses and how to support them, check out these pages:

Although it can be easier to shop at big-box stores, shopping small ultimately impacts more Americans. It’s estimated that small businesses make up 99.9 percent of all U.S. businesses, and shopping small online and in-store can change local and national economies for the better.