Small businesses account for 44% of the U.S. economy today and serve as the backbone of local communities and economies. However, many entrepreneurs struggle to receive the support they need to start and grow their small businesses. This was especially true over the last year as COVID-19 drastically changed the way we go about our daily lives and work. For some small business owners, including veterans, immigrants and adults age 55+ (encore entrepreneurs), there are additional hurdles to starting and operating a small business to begin with, which were made even more significant over the course of the pandemic.

New data from SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer expert business mentors dedicated to supporting small businesses, highlights the unique struggles of these entrepreneurs. Key findings include:

  1. Even though 21% of the U.S. population is over age 55, encore entrepreneurs represent more than half (50.9%) of all U.S. business owners. They report feeling unsupported during the pandemic, tapping into personal saving accounts and credit cards to finance their business at higher rates than before.
  2. Although veterans contribute to entrepreneurship at higher rates than non-veterans, many veterans cite service-related disabilities as barriers to starting a business. In addition, although many applied for COVID-19 relief funds, they were denied more often than other business owners.
  1. While only 13.2% of the U.S. population are first-generation immigrants, they represent 20.6% of all U.S. business owners. In 2020, even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, immigrant entrepreneurs were 30% more likely to hire new employees, despite being less likely to receive government support in the form of PPP loans.

In our roles as the CEO of SCORE and an active SCORE small business mentor, we have seen firsthand the challenges unsung entrepreneurs face, but also know the unique value they bring to the table. Veteran business owners bring incredible leadership skills to their businesses, immigrant entrepreneurs are more likely to make hires – even during the pandemic – helping fuel local economies, and encore entrepreneurs own half of America’s small businesses.

These individuals not only enrich the fabric of their communities, they also help form the cornerstone of our economy, and we’re here to support them. SCORE is a resource for small business owners through free, expert business mentoring, on-demand educational resources and tools that provide a platform for growth – all of the time, but especially as small business leaders navigate a post-pandemic world.

For entrepreneurs who may be thinking about starting a business or who may be struggling today, here are tips to help you stay connected and grow your business within your local community:

  1. Get to know SCORE’s resources: In addition to mentoring services, org offers the tools and resources small business owners need to succeed. We offer businesses in depth on demand training resources, local workshops, digital webinars and weekly tips focused on small business strategies.
  2. Network with local business owners: Make sure to connect with other small businesses in your community through your local SCORE chapter or other civic organizations. SCORE emphasizes the value of networking and partnerships. Businesses tend to work better together and local business owners can offer a source of comradery, friendship and support.
  3. Find an experienced mentor: SCORE offers free business advice from experienced mentors who can provide expertise and practical tips, help owners optimize business plans, troubleshoot strategies and ideas, offer business tools proven effective and become a trusted sounding board for all business topics. Mentors can be a valuable asset to your entrepreneurship journey.

Small businesses are the driving force of our economy as well as an invaluable asset to our communities, leading innovation and creating two-thirds of the new jobs in the U.S. in recent years. But small business owners do not need to do it alone. In the wake of the pandemic, SCORE is here to help you succeed, thrive and prepare for future challenges.

Bridget Weston, CEO of SCORE & Ricardo Casas, SCORE Mentor

COVID-19 stock image by plo/Shutterstock