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There’s a lot of debate about the difference between small business vs startup, and the best way to start your own business. Some people swear by the small business model, while others are all in on startup culture. So, which is the right path for you? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of each approach to help you make up your mind.

What is a Startup?

A startup is a newly established business that aims to grow quickly by offering innovative products or services, typically in the technology or internet industry. Some well-known examples of successful startups include companies like Uber, Airbnb, and SpaceX.

Starting a new business can be risky, as many startups fail within their first few years. However, those that do succeed often see significant growth and success. Many startups also receive funding from investors who believe in the company’s potential and its products or services.

While some startups eventually become big businesses, others stay small and maintain their unique culture and approach. Whether a major corporation or a small operation, the key aspect of a startup is its focus on innovation and quick growth.

What is a Small Business?

According to the Small Business Administration, a small business has fewer than 500 employees. This includes sole proprietorships, partnerships, corporations, and limited liability companies.

Some examples of small businesses include local restaurants, independent retail stores, and freelance consultants.

These businesses play a crucial role in the economy by creating jobs and driving innovation. Small businesses make up 99.7% of all employer firms in the U.S.

However, running a small business can come with unique challenges, such as limited resources and competition with larger corporations. Small business owners need to stay organized and plan strategically to succeed.

Differences Between Startup vs Small Business

There are several important differences between a startup and a small business. At the most basic level, startups tend to be focused on emerging technologies and new ideas, while small businesses typically operate in more established industries. In addition, startup founders usually have less experience than their counterparts in small businesses. Perhaps most importantly, startups require much greater investment and risk-taking than small businesses, as they involve untested ideas and technologies that may or may not work out in the long run.

Over time, successful startups often grow into larger companies, scaling up their operations and improving their bottom line. However, despite these key differences between startups and small businesses, both are essential for driving innovation and growth in the modern economy. Now let us explore some of the key differences in more detail.

Small business support

1. Growth intent

When starting a business, there is often confusion about what qualifies as a startup versus a small business. While both types of companies are typically owned and operated by a small team or individual, their intent and approach can differ significantly.

A startup primarily focuses on innovation and growth, with the ultimate goal of becoming a large, successful company. This often involves introducing new products or technologies to the market. In contrast, a small business may have more modest goals, such as serving its local community or providing a steady income for its owners.

Startups also tend to be more risk-taking and may require significant initial investments. Small businesses may be less likely to take these risks, opting for slower and steadier growth.

It’s important to note that the lines between a startup and a small business can be blurred, and a company may have characteristics of both. Ultimately, it’s up to the individual or team behind the business to define their goals and approach.

2. Business objectives

When it comes to a startup versus a small business, one of the key differences is its exit strategy. A startup may have an exit strategy of being acquired by a larger company or going public. At the same time, a small business may plan to eventually pass on ownership to family members or sell to another individual.

Additionally, startups often rely on outside funding from angel investors or venture capitalists to grow and scale quickly. On the other hand, small businesses are more likely to rely on personal savings or loans from banks for funding.

Lastly, startups typically focus on creating disruptive innovation and high growth to generate a return on investment for their investors. Small businesses, however, may prioritize steady growth and profitability for the owner’s gain. While startups and small businesses aim for success, their approaches and ultimate goals may differ.

3. Funding

Regarding funding, there are some key differences between startups and small businesses.

Startups typically rely on outside investors or venture capitalists for funding. They pitch their idea to potential investors, who then decide whether or not to invest in the company. This can result in a lot of pressure for startups to perform and bring in profits quickly.

On the other hand, small businesses often fund themselves through personal savings or small business loans. They may also turn to family and friends for investment opportunities. Small businesses have more room to grow slowly and steadily without pressure from outside investors.

It’s important to note that startups and small businesses can succeed in their own right. It all depends on the unique goals and strategies of each business.

4. Level of risk

One key difference between a startup and a small business is the level of risk involved. Startups, by nature, are more risky ventures as they often involve developing a completely new product or service, whereas small businesses may offer something that already exists in the marketplace.

Additionally, startups tend to have less initial funding and resources compared to small businesses, which can result in higher levels of financial risk. However, if successful, startups have the potential for high growth and profitability. On the other hand, small businesses typically have slower and steadier growth.

Overall, it is important to consider the level of risk when deciding whether to start a startup or a small business. While both can be successful ventures, they each come with unique challenges and potential rewards.

5. Leadership

Regarding leadership, there are some key differences between startups and small businesses. While an entrepreneur may lead both, startups tend to have smaller employees and a more fluid structure. On the other hand, small businesses typically have a larger number of employees and a more traditional hierarchy.

Additionally, because of their smaller size and often innovative nature, startups may emphasise agility and flexibility in their leadership style. On the other hand, small businesses may prioritize stability and long-term planning.

Ultimately, the leadership approach will vary based on each business’s specific needs and goals. However, it is important for leaders in both startups and small businesses to continuously assess and adapt their leadership styles as the company grows and evolves.

6. End goals

One key difference between a startup and a small business is its end goals. A startup’s ultimate goal is often to go public through an initial public offering (IPO) and become a successful, publicly-traded company. On the other hand, a small business may have the goal of remaining privately owned and providing stability for its owners and employees.

Another distinction is that startups typically focus on creating a repeatable and scalable business model, while small businesses may prioritize providing personalized products or services to a smaller customer base. Ultimately, both types of companies can be successful in their own right, but they tend to have different approaches and end goals.

It is important to note that not all startups ultimately aim for an IPO, and not all small businesses want to stay small forever. Some startups may choose to be acquired by a larger company or pursue other exit strategies, and some small businesses may wish to expand and grow over time. The key difference lies in their initial focus and priorities when first starting. Ultimately, both types of companies can be successful in their own right, but they tend to have different approaches and end goals.

Small Business vs Startup: Which Should I Choose?

Choosing between starting a small business or a startup can be a difficult decision. Understanding the differences between the two is important before making your choice.

A small business typically caters to a small market and often provides more traditional products or services. On the other hand, a startup aims for large markets and tries to disrupt existing industries with innovative ideas.

It’s also important to note that while startups have the potential for massive growth, they also carry higher risks. So it’s crucial to thoroughly research and understand your market before diving in as a startup founder.

It ultimately comes down to what type of business you want to run and how much risk you’re willing to take on. Consider your goals and do your research to make the best decision for yourself and your business.

Final Words

Small businesses have an easier time getting up and running but may not be as scalable. Startups are more likely to experience growing pains, but offer the potential for greater success in the long run.

  • Which one is right for you? That depends on your goals and what you’re willing to put into your business.
  • Both small businesses and startups can benefit from following best practices and learning from others in their industries.

F.A.Q.s

Are startups considered small businesses?

Startups and small businesses are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct differences. A small business is a privately owned company with few employees and a relatively low sales volume. On the other hand, a startup refers to a newly established business that aims to develop a unique product or service to grow rapidly.

While both startups and small businesses can be considered small, it is important to note that not all small businesses are startups and vice versa. A big distinction between the two is their growth potential; while a small business may aim for steady and gradual growth, a startup typically has ambitious goals for rapid expansion. Additionally, startups are often associated with innovation and disruptive ideas in contrast to small businesses, which may offer more traditional products and services.

Whether a company is a startup or a small business depends on its specific characteristics and objectives. However, both play an important role in contributing to the economy and job market.

What qualifies a startup?

Generally speaking, a startup can be defined as a newly emerging business that aims to grow rapidly. Startups are typically small or medium-sized and focus on innovation, technology, and disruption in their respective industries.

Running a startup means constantly seeking new growth opportunities and facing the challenges of establishing oneself in a competitive market.

While there are no set criteria for what qualifies as a startup, it is often characterized by its innovative approach and desire for rapid expansion.

Ultimately, the defining factor for a startup is the drive to disrupt and shake up traditional norms in its industry.

What is the difference between a scalable startup and a small business?

A small business is typically a privately owned company with few employees and relatively limited capital. These businesses tend to stay small and serve a local market rather than expanding rapidly or globally. On the other hand, a scalable startup aims for rapid growth and expansion, often with the ultimate goal of becoming acquired by a larger company or going public through an IPO.

Startups are more likely to focus on innovative technology or new business models, whereas small businesses may offer traditional products or services. The success of startups depends heavily on securing funding from investors, whereas small businesses may rely more on self-funding or small loans. Small businesses and scalable startups can succeed but have different approaches and goals.

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