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Think Small on National Small Business Day

Presented by the SBA, this day is a chance to celebrate Cincinnati’s small business community.

Here at REDI Cincinnati, we get pretty excited for big business wins, which create thousands of jobs and pump major dollars into the regional economy. But we also champion Cincinnati’s numerous small businesses as critically vital to the health of our local economic landscape. Small businesses provide nimble conditions for innovation, and their size allows them to target the needs of niche consumer communities. And, comprising some 44% of the national economy (according to the SBA), there’s no denying that small businesses are an extremely important segment of the U.S. economy!

Just What Is a Small Business?

When we hear the term “small business,” many of us think of a small-town Main Street lined with mom’n’pop shops. And while these are definitely small businesses (and both fun and important to patronize regularly), there’s actually so much more to the small business landscape.

The SBA’s Office of Advocacy defines a small business as “an independent business having fewer than 500 employees.” There are, of course, some finer points to this broad definition, industry-level specifications that are considered in matters of government programs and contracting. But, generally speaking, National Small Business Day celebrates businesses with less than 500 people on the payroll.

And, as you can imagine, there is an almost limitless range of business services provided by this segment of the economy. Yes, your local record store and bodega are small businesses, but so, too, can be the local plumber, logistics firm, day care, accountant and car dealership. It’s a big world for small businesses!

Small Business in the Queen City      

Here in Cincinnati, small business just makes sense. Our city’s relatively low cost of living can be hugely beneficial to startup conditions, a major contributor to an economy primed for small business success. Cincinnati is logistically advantaged, too, with a geographic location that’s an eight-hour drive of 60% of the U.S. population and a 90-minute flight from 66% of all major U.S. markets. We have a dense population of workplace talent and a diversity of economic opportunity. And for anybody seeking investment financing and/or real estate to start a business, Cincinnati has the tools, the people, and the connections to help.

In fact, across the six categories we use to measure a city’s potential for business success, Cincinnati has what it takes to succeed.

So what does small business look like in Cincinnati on a numbers basis? In total, we found that our MSA had 195,023 small businesses. While 161,436 of these businesses are non-employer (no paid employees – think a general contractor or real estate agent), 32,826 of these businesses do employ a paid staff.

Locally, some 403,128 people are employed by a small business – that’s 41.8% of our MSA’s workforce. Among small businesses that have a payroll of some sort, the two largest employee numbers are in the 20 to 99 employees (141,314) and 100 to 499 employees (137,334) ranges.


Help also comes from JobsOhio. Since its inception in 2020, the JobsOhio Small Business Grant* has supported 72 projects in southwest Ohio, which have created almost 500 new jobs, encompassing $28.7M in new payroll and spurring $11M in capital investment. The total grant dollars awarded within the Cincinnati region reached $3M in early 2024. 86 percent of the supported projects have been for companies with underrepresented ownership (woman-owned, minority-owned, veteran-owned or owned by those with a disability).

It’s a lot of data, but the fact that we have all these numbers to consider proves that Cincinnati is a hotbed of small-business activity. And that is a very good thing. Celebrating small businesses means celebrating the people who start small businesses, as founders envision and dare to act on the dreams that become small businesses.



*To read more about JOSB grant please go here

 **For more information on the JobsOhio Small Business Grant, please visit our dedicated page or contact Cierra Clymer, REDI Cincinnati director of international business development & inclusion (; 513.579.3103).