Small Business Support



Small Business Support

Skill Training and Workspaces

Urban Space Gallery

Index by Topic

Return to Main Page

Advantages of Small Businesses

The advantages of small buisnesses have been well stablished. They encourage creativity and innovation due to their flexibility and streamlined decision making. They provide increased opportunity: "Small business is the portal through which many people enter the economic mainstream. Business ownership allows individuals, including women and minorities, to achieve financial success, as well as pride in their accomplishments."[1] And most importantly, they increase competition. The direction toward larger companies inevitably leads to fewer choices and eventual monopolies.

Reiterating the advantages of localism, large companies tend to have some advantages of scale, but they generally incur higher costs of transportation. Patronizing a local small business tend to even these trade-offs, in addition to providing more customized or tailored products and services.

Business Incubators

Some of the urban spaces that we present can be classified as "incubators" in that they provide facilities for small businesses to start at a small scale untill they are able to solidify their product or service. For example, the Flint Food Works at the Flint Farmers' Market and the Southside Community Land Trust provide kitchen facilities to allow the development of new food businesses. Another example is the Crosstown Arts Shared Art Making workspace at Crosstown Concourse that provides art-making facilities and equipment for new artisitc or craft-related businesses.

A type of business incubator is what is classified a "pop-up" space. These spaces are normally experimental or temporary setups that can be used as part of a revitalization effort, specially because of their low-cost:

A pop-up retail space is a venue that is temporary: the space could be a sample sale one day and host a private cocktail party the next evening. The trend involves "popping up" one day, then disappearing anywhere from one day to several weeks later. These shops, while small and temporary, can build up interest by consumer exposure. Pop-up retail allows a company to create a unique environment that engages their customers and generates a feeling of relevance and interactivity.[2]

Public markets often make such spaces available for newcomers.

Photo ©  Flint farmers' Market

Concessions and Vendors

An urban space may have a cultural or educational purpose, but it is often benefitted by having onsite restaurants or stores as concessions: "If you want to seed a place with activity, put out food."[3] Of course, well-known chains provide instant recognition, but the usually steady lunch clientele of a place often develops a strong loyalty for unique or homegrown establishments. In addition to food, bookstores and flower shops are a good fit for public spaces. The stores may be indoors or outdoors, but it is advantageous to mix styles: "Window-shopping storefronts and sidewalk cafes, of course, are a prime means of activating the critically important ground floor."[4] Outdoor cafes are a major draw, but they sometimes may obstruct walking paths. To address this, at Bethesda Row outdoor cafe seating has been right placed next to the road, so that pedestrians can traffic next to the stores.[5] These concessions also benefit from being collocated with whatever the main purpose of the space may be. This is a form of business support. As indicated above, unique or homegrown businesses are usually the most compatible with the type of centers that we are talking about.

Bethesda Row Restaurant

Public Markets

As delivery services have boomed and groceries and stores increasingly use self-checkout systems, public markets are one of the few places where a consumer can interact with a person who may have produced or selected a product.[6] Farmers markets often sprout informally on certain locations, but there is an increasing recognition of their social and economic value. The term public market may cover "all types of markets, including open-air markets, covered markets, permanent market halls, market districts, and even informal markets of street vendors."[7] The Boston Public Market provides a useful definition of what we are talking about: "A public market is made up of small independent businesses, and each shop or stall is owner-operated. Rather than one company selling every item, like you would find in a supermarket, a public market features dozens of vendors selling food and other products."[8]  The influential urban design organization Project for Public Spaces enumerates some of the benefits provided by these markets:

They offer low barriers to entry for diverse new business owners, and connect urban customers to rural economies where products are grown, raised, and distributed... they can increase access to healthy foods in places that lack it. And of course, markets are also one of the few public gathering places where people of different ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds come together in our polarized and segregated cities.[9]

Public markets Connect with with our goal of supporting the creation and survival of small businesses:

"Public markets are the ultimate small business incubator. From your casual, one-day a week flea market vendor to your serious, seven-day a week market hall vendor, public markets are wonderful places for people—especially minorities, immigrants, and women—to grow a business." Typically, markets work as entry points for new entrepreneurs because they are relatively inexpensive to start and operate. Vendors often only have to invest in minimal stall infrastructure which requires fewer resources and risk than building up a stand-alone business.[10]

Photo ©, Santa Fe Farmers’ Market

We have included as part of our examples two public markets. The Flint farmers' Market is primarily a public market, although some other elements have been added. The Santa Fe Railyard has a large farmers' market with indoor and ourdoor components. Many of our other examples may organize ocassional public markets. These examples were organized locally as the Market Cities organization recommends: "While public markets can and do earn a substantial amount of their own income, we must invest public funding in their design, programming, and management for them to meet their full potential as engines of opportunity, health, and resilience."[11]

[1] Exploring Business, 5.2.

[2] Wikipedia: Pop-up Retail

[3] William H. Whyte, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, 50.

[4] Mark C. Childs, Squares, (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004), 133.

[5] F. Kaid Benfield et al, Solving Sprawl (New York City: Natural Resources Defense Council, 2001), 87-88.

[6] Public Markets: The Seeds of a New Economy

[7] Endless Bounty: The Transformative Benefits of Public Markets

[8] What is a Public market?

[9] Seven Principles for Becoming a Market City

[10] Endless Bounty: The Transformative Benefits of Public Markets

[11] Public Markets: The Seeds of a New Economy