Making the most of Miami’s micro-business economy

Metropolis highlight

For the final 5 years, Dan Grech has been instructing entrepreneurs in Miami the right way to use the web to develop their companies. His shoppers are as eclectic as the metropolis itself, starting from long-established eating places and hip new bakeries in want of a digital presence to spice up on-line orders to first-timers like 14-year-old Zoe Terry, who created Zoe’s Dolls to present dolls of colour to different Black ladies like herself.

“Miami ranks as a frontrunner in new enterprise startups, however close to the backside in scale-ups,” says Grech, the founder and CEO of BizHack Academy. “We’ve all the time attracted dreamers and strivers, however we don’t have the know-how ecosystem of different locations, so lots of individuals don’t have Twenty first-century  expertise for constructing new companies. If we are able to shut that hole, Miami will unleash a hurricane of innovation.”

Therein lies the alternative for Miami — and the problem. The Miami metro space, together with the close by cities of Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Seashore, has extra digitally related micro-businesses per individual than another main metro in the United States, with 9.9 per each 100 residents, in response to Enterprise Ahead, a multiyear analysis effort by GoDaddy to quantify the financial affect of micro-businesses.

In the metropolis of Miami, the density is even increased, at 21.1 per 100 residents. And whereas the density of micro-businesses in another high-concentration cities like San Francisco shrank in the latter half of 2020, it rose by 5 p.c in Miami.

On-line micro-businesses could make a big effect on native economies

These on-line micro-businesses, about half of that are run by “solopreneurs” and nearly all of which have 10 or fewer workers, could make a big effect on native economies. Communities with larger density of micro-business have decrease unemployment, increased family median earnings and are extra resilient throughout financial downturns, knowledge from Enterprise Ahead exhibits.

Businesses from Allapattah Collaborative
Allapattah Collaborative helped micro-businesses in the low-income neighborhood increase $700K in grants and loans in 2020.

Regardless of Miami’s excessive focus of these sorts of companies, the space faces particular challenges to assist its neighborhood of present and aspiring micro-entrepreneurs.

Whereas all companies profit from the area’s low tax charges and standing as a hub of worldwide commerce, Miami has a better proportion of “startups of survival,” that are born out of necessity quite than alternative, than different cities, in response to a survey from the Kauffman Basis.

Many of these are owned by immigrants from Central and South America, who’re extra involved with paying the payments than chasing huge, new markets, and are weak to sudden shifts in the economy.

And different would-be entrepreneurs have been stifled by issues reminiscent of spotty broadband distribution. Miami ranks final amongst main metropolitan areas in-home broadband adoption, with many low-income residents, specifically, missing the connections required to run and entry on-line companies, in response to Enterprise Ahead. The issue is very pronounced in predominantly Black neighborhoods.

Supporting startups huge and small

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez

Miami’s leaders are conscious of these issues. In mid-March, Mayor Francis X. Suarez introduced Miami Connected, a partnership with personal buyers, authorities and civic teams to offer broadband entry and digital literacy coaching to public colleges in low-income neighborhoods, beginning with the principally Black neighborhoods of Overtown and Homestead.

And in February, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava introduced a program referred to as Renew305 that features $1.5 million in grants to offer new expertise, a revolving mortgage fund for small companies referred to as RISE Miami-Dade, and an Workplace of Fairness and Inclusion.

The strikes will “make sure that minority- and women-owned companies get a share of the pie and guarantee we assist companies in each neighborhood start-up and develop,” she instructed the South Florida Business Journal.

At the identical time, Mayor Suarez is aggressively courting tech firms, making an attempt to get them to relocate from higher-cost, higher-stress cities.

Suarez has vowed to make Miami the first metropolis to just accept bitcoin as a type of fee for presidency companies, holds periodic “Cafecito Talks” with tech entrepreneurs and buyers on Twitter, and is quoted on a billboard in downtown San Francisco saying, “Desirous about shifting to Miami? DM me.” The payoff for these efforts could possibly be vital, as the work-from-anywhere insurance policies prompted by the pandemic have created a once-in-a-generation alternative to woo firms to the space.

But lecturers and neighborhood leaders warn that it’ll take concerted, sustained effort to fulfill the wants of well-funded tech firms with out neglecting these of micro-businesses.

Whereas financial growth professionals round the nation understandably prioritize efforts to lure huge employers, they typically miss the significance, each financial and cultural, of their smallest homegrown startups, says Peter Roberts, a professor of group and administration at Emory College who has studied micro-businesses for a few years.

For instance, Miami’s Cuban “Cafecito” joints serving candy Cuban espressos not solely present jobs and add to the tax base, but in addition improve commerce in the neighborhood and are a cause individuals go to and generally keep in the metropolis.

“I’m not disparaging efforts to draw bigger firms, however the tendency is for policymakers to not take micro-businesses as severely,” Roberts says. His analysis means that cities which can be profitable in attracting huge firms find yourself displacing as a substitute of serving the individuals who reside in these communities. “Generally the proper reply is to assist 1,000 firms rent 5 individuals, quite than assist one rent 5,000.”

There are different challenges for policymakers, too. Many micro-businesses take some time to register formally, or by no means do, so that they don’t present up in research and experiences. Some are facet hustles that generate earnings for his or her house owners, however haven’t but developed into full-time efforts.

Natasha Williams walking on sidewalk

Contemplate Natasha Williams. A longtime Miami faucet dance trainer and performer, Williams noticed most of her work dry up when the pandemic began. That’s when she determined to capitalize on her aptitude for fashion to launch Natasha Nails, which sells hand-painted press-on nails. Whereas her on-line retailer, buoyed by an Instagram account with greater than 5,000 followers, is bringing only a few hundred {dollars} a month, she’s satisfied of its potential.

“I would like the enterprise to develop huge, till we’re promoting at Goal,” says Williams, who hasn’t but registered the enterprise. “However every part is a step at a time.”

The ability of inclusive broadband

Some neighborhood activists agree that with out considerate public coverage to assist micro-businesses like Williams’, an inflow of tech firms and their typically prosperous employees may exacerbate issues reminiscent of gentrification and harm a essential half of Miami’s economy.

“It’s nice that we’re making an attempt to draw tech firms as a result of tech is the future,” says Mileyka Burgos-Flores, govt director of The Allapattah Collaborative, which helped small companies in that low-income, closely Dominican neighborhood increase $700,000 in grants, loans and different assets in 2020. “However we’ve all heard about what’s occurred in San Francisco and Austin and Seattle, the place the success of tech has made inequities far worse.”

Broadband adoption chart

Maybe the most apparent precursor to giving native entrepreneurial communities a lift is by making broadband extra extensively accessible and reasonably priced, says Karen Mossberger, a professor of public coverage and neighborhood options at Arizona State College.

However new analysis from Enterprise Ahead exhibits that the broadband plumbing alone, whereas needed for supporting micro-businesses, shouldn’t be adequate to scale back unemployment.

It’s solely when residents faucet that broadband to construct micro-businesses — quite than simply watch Netflix and play video games, for instance — that there’s a significant financial affect.

The Enterprise Ahead knowledge exhibits that the mixture of widespread broadband and a excessive density of micro-businesses brings unemployment down.

Based on Mossberger, communities that added 5 extra ventures per 100 individuals and had excessive broadband connectivity may scale back unemployment charges by 2 proportion factors on common. This can be a vital distinction, given that in the worst of the financial fallout from the pandemic final April, unemployment was 14.4 p.c for the nation as an entire.

Associated: 4 coverage pillars that can encourage on-line micro-businesses

“Inclusive broadband lays the groundwork for a tradition of innovation that advantages everybody,” Mossberger says. “Making certain everybody has entry to broadband is one of the finest methods to generate the most profit for the local people.”

Uneven distribution and vulnerabilities in micro-businesses

There are a lot of explanations for Miami’s abundance of micro-businesses, from a relative lack of giant company employers to an abundance of enterprising immigrants. However entrepreneurship is equally distributed.

For instance, zip codes with predominantly Black residents had 55% fewer small companies in 2018 than different elements of the metropolis, says Emory’s Roberts.

ASU’s Mossberger says increasing entry to reasonably priced broadband is a should if this disparity goes to be addressed. At a time when the means to promote on-line and take digital orders is extra essential than ever, solely 56% of Black residents of Miami have enough broadband, in comparison with 72% of Latinx residents and 88% of whites, she says. In principally Black enclaves reminiscent of Liberty Metropolis, it could possibly even be arduous to get an honest cellular phone connection, says Elaine Black, CEO of the Liberty Metropolis Belief, which lends to native companies. “Don’t be stunned if we lose this line in the subsequent couple of minutes,” she warned a reporter throughout a latest name.

Different elements counsel that Miami’s micro-business neighborhood, whereas vibrant, stays fragile.


Miami’s quite a few “startups of survival” have been created by people who find themselves combating simply to pay their payments, not chasing an enormous payday. Many are immigrants, who’ve few money reserves and usually are not conscious of, or are unable to faucet, authorities help applications.

“Nearly each enterprise will get its seed cash from family and friends,” says Grech. “However lots of these individuals have been completely on their very own.”

How you can assist Miami’s micro-businesses

So what can Miami’s policymakers do — moreover making broadband extra accessible — to assist? Based on Enterprise Ahead surveys of hundreds of founders who use GoDaddy’s website-building instruments, the high request micro-businesses have for native governments is assist with digital advertising and marketing, to allow them to navigate the bewildering world of promoting on Fb and Instagram and getting their web sites ranked prominently on Google or Yelp.

Whereas there’s a thriving cottage trade of consultants providing digital advertising and marketing teaching, Grech discovered that too few are centered on serving to the least refined enterprise house owners. “It’s the place the want is biggest and the availability of companies is weakest,” he says.

Information from Empower, a GoDaddy program that gives coursework and monetary help for neighborhood teams that present coaching to underserved communities, backs up Grech’s level. Many of the 1,756 entrepreneurs surveyed by Empower in 2020 wanted fundamental digital literacy coaching to take the programs, and 79% wanted hands-on help to really arrange an internet site.

When made accessible, the outcomes may be transformational.


In spite of COVID-19, 40% of Empower members reported a rise in income in 2020. Grech, for instance, tells of a lady who ran a struggling daycare service in the principally Black, low-income metropolis of Opa-Locka simply north of Miami. After she posted her first adverts on Fb and Instagram, a every day funding of simply $15, she added shoppers that ought to herald $64,000 of additional income in coming years.

However many of Miami’s micro-entrepreneurs, significantly latest immigrants, want much more rudimentary assist. “Rather a lot of these individuals don’t even know the right way to use their telephones, they usually don’t have time to study,” says Burgos-Flores, whose Allapattah Collaborative gives workshops, lessons and one-on-one teaching. “You’re not going to get somebody to go from maintaining receipts in a shoebox to utilizing QuickBooks and Slack in a single day. You’ve acquired to satisfy them the place they’re.”

Closing the info hole

Generally, which means actually assembly them the place they’re. When Burgos-Flores heard in February that the U.S. authorities was extending its Payroll Safety Program to micro-businesses with no workers, she instantly organized a workforce of canvassers to go door-to-door to unfold the phrase by Allapattah. The help may have an outsized affect in the neighborhood, which has suffered hovering unemployment and widespread closures as a result of the pandemic.

“Most of these individuals are not digitally related, and I’ll inform you the fact: 90% of them are skeptical that anybody goes to come back to their door providing free cash,” says Burgos-Flores. “However just a few requested for extra info. It’s a step in the proper route.”

Spreading the phrase extra extensively about accessible help applications may go a good distance towards strengthening Miami’s smallest companies. In a single survey of the metropolis of North Miami, 92 p.c of micro-business house owners hadn’t obtained any technical assist, and all of people who did acquired it from family and friends, says Ahmed Mori, vice chairman of financial growth for Catalyst Miami, a gaggle based by Miami-Dade’s Levine-Cava in 1996 to assist the metropolis’s poorer residents.

“Not one small enterprise reported any assist from a nonprofit technical help supplier,” he says. “None of them even knew free technical help existed.”

Putting the proper stability for brand new enterprise in Miami

Many advocates for Miami’s micro-businesses reward Mayor Suarez’s push to draw Silicon Valley–fashion tech corporations. Whereas it gained’t flip the space into a serious tech hub in a single day — Southeast Florida nonetheless ranks thirty seventh out of the high 50 high markets for tech jobs, in response to a latest survey — it’s more likely to convey advantages that would ripple throughout the economy.

However the micro-businesses which have helped make Miami the distinctive place it’s, deserves consideration too, says Burgos-Flores.


“The issue actually isn’t dangerous insurance policies, it’s a scarcity of insurance policies that assist small companies thrive,” she says. Investing in the success of micro-entrepreneurs may even assist make Miami extra attractive for the very tech companies the metropolis hopes to lure. “In any other case, it’d be like constructing a home to take the finest care of your visitors, quite than your youngsters,” she says.


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