The Best Small Business Stories Of 2021

This past year saw Main Street undergo a rapid transformation, fueled by the Covid-19 pandemic. Faced with funding, supply chain and staffing shortages, small business owners proved they were up to the many challenges that came their way and pushed forward, demonstrating more determination than ever before. And so it makes sense that resilience has been a recurring theme in our coverage, and it’s reflected in this compilation of the best small business stories of the year. Organized in chronological order, each speaks to the strength and adaptability required of entrepreneurs today. 

JAMEL TOPPIN FOR FORBES, GABBY JONES FOR FORBES, GABRIELA HASBUN FOR FORBES, COURTESY OF ALEX WEST STEINMAN, JANELLE ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY, COURTESY OF ROBERT TANKSON. DESIGN BY FORBES

Small Business Strikes Back: The Numbers Behind The Next 1000

Forbes launched its inaugural Next 1000 list in 2021 as a year-round initiative to showcase ambitious sole proprietors, self-funded shops and pre-revenue startups across the country. Accompanying the first installment of 250 honorees was this data-driven story that takes a look at the numbers behind the list and the state of small business. 

How Andrea Jung, Lisa Mensah And Women Over 50 Are Safeguarding Small Businesses

As part of Forbes’ partnership with Mika Brzezinski and her “Know Your Value” initiative to spotlight women over the age of 50 who are changing the world, my colleague Maggie McGrath highlighted those helping to safeguard the country’s small businesses. From Andrea Jung to Suzanne Clark, these are the women working to save Main Street America. 

The Future Of Small Business Lending: Fintech 50 2021

This past year has been one of the most challenging for small businesses, but one silver lining is the increased attention that’s been paid to capital access. In addition to the Paycheck Protection Program and other government aid provided during the pandemic, several fintech companies have stepped in to offer small business lending, according to my colleague Jonathan Ponciano. Here’s a look at the future of small business lending. 

Covid’s Entrepreneur Explosion

Chris Crisman for Forbes

Small business owners were blindsided by Covid-19, and while many were forced to adapt or shutter, there was also an unprecedented entrepreneurial explosion. As my colleague Maneet Ahuja wrote, the pandemic spawned more than 4 million new businesses. Here is how high unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression coupled with access to fresh sources of capital through fintech and other factors led to a historic number of Americans betting on themselves and launching their own companies. 

Insights On The Five Stages Of Small Business Growth

‘Tis the season for setting New Year’s resolutions. For those looking to launch or build a business, Forbes has you covered. This small business series illustrating the five stages of small business growth—existence, survival, success, take-off and resource maturity—features expert insights and real-life examples. From launching a business to determining product fit and customer acquisition, all steps are covered. 

GABBY JONES FOR FORBES

How Etsy Is Giving AI To Its Army Of 5 Million Artisan-Entrepreneurs To Build The Anti-Amazon

Josh Silverman is using cutting-edge technology to transform Etsy from a hippie flea market into a Wall Street hero—without losing its soul. The 16-year-old company—which many small business owners rely on as a platform to sell their products—is worth just shy of $30 billion. My colleague Steven Bertoni writes that active buyers and sellers on Etsy have doubled to 90 million and 5 million, respectively.