August 29, 2022
There are 32.5 million small businesses in the United States, employing more than 61 million people and accounting for 99.9% of the nation’s businesses, according to the US Small Business Administration.
As business journalists, however, we tend to focus almost exclusively on the biggest businesses that reap the biggest profits and make the biggest news. With a total of $16.1 trillion in annual revenue, Fortune 500 companies alone account for 18% of world gross domestic product and two-thirds of US gross domestic product, while employing nearly 30 million worldwide. It’s easy for corporations like Boeing Co. or Dominion Energy Inc. attract attention.
And the fact is, it’s also very hard to know which small businesses will last and which ones have a story worth telling. Entrepreneurs face great risks—about 20% of small businesses fail in the first year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure rises to a grim 45% in five years, and a frightening 65% close the signs “out of business” within 10 years.
Faced with that kind of math, it’s understandable why the business news media might be reluctant to cover startups and small businesses. However, with the downsizing and closure of many daily and weekly newspapers, coverage of small local businesses is diminishing, and this is everyone’s loss.
That’s one of the reasons why we’ve launched a new site dedicated to startups, where we’ll try to cover a little bit of everything – from accelerators, venture capital and funding rounds to mom shops.
And speaking of startups, on our cover, freelance writer Greg Weatherford takes us on quick trips several Virginia companies have traveled to become unicorns with valuations in excess of a billion dollars — just six years (!) in the case of Herndon cybersecurity firm Expel Inc.
September also brings the third annual edition of the Virginia 500, filled with this number. Five times the number of our annual monthly editions, this roundup of the Commonwealth’s 500 most powerful leaders is the length of a modest airport flap. And if, like me, you’re the type of person who likes to learn about the movers and shakers and how they got to where they are, it can be just as compelling a read.
From an editorial standpoint, I don’t care to believe that 500 is a beast of a project. From research to writing to publishing, it’s about six months of work, including all five members of our editorial staff, nine freelance writers and two copy editors. And that doesn’t even include the photographers, art director, and layout staff. I’d like to single out Virginia Business Associate Editor Courtney Mabeus and freelance writer Beth JoJack, whose stellar writing and reporting accounted for about 40% of the 500. Additionally, Deputy Editor Kate Andrews and Assistant Editor Katherine Schulte provided invaluable editing and facts. — checking in help, and associate editor Robyn Sidersky kept our daily news website humming while the rest of us were deep in 500 Land.
As reporters and editors, we find the 500 to be an incredibly valuable reference exercise to help us keep up with the state’s top executives and businesses. And we know many of you feel the same way, because the 500 is the most popular issue we’ve featured in the magazine’s 36-year history.
That said, we don’t like to work in a vacuum. Our goal for the 500 is to present as accurate a picture of power in the Commonwealth as we can, but it’s also somewhat subjective, no matter how much research we do to back it up. So if after reading this year’s edition you feel we’ve missed someone crucial or included someone you think shouldn’t have made the grade, feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to chat – and now that the 500 is over for another year, I’ll have a bit more time.
For a while anyway.