What can I call small business owners or small businesses without using this miserable word small?

I'm trying to find a name for some event, trying to invent a word that will make them appear in a positive way.

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    This seems to be the most common term throughout the industry. – Barmar Jun 11 '15 at 21:17
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    I agree with @Barmar. There is nothing miserable about that word in the expression small business owners or small businesses. Small does not carry any negative connotation there, it just refers to the size of the business in a neutral way. – oerkelens Jun 11 '15 at 21:20
  • @oerkelens Quite right; as the larger-than-life American, working for a Japanese micro-electronics company discovered when he got fired - for 'thinking too big'! – WS2 Jun 11 '15 at 21:34
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    In the US, at least, small business owner is in fact the term by which these businesspeople refer to themselves; they are proud to distinguish themselves by scale from the proprietors of large enterprises. – StoneyB Jun 11 '15 at 21:34
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    At the magazines where I've worked, we made a point (or rather a hyphen) of referring to them as small-business owners, to avoid giving the impression that they were "people smaller than average." – Sven Yargs Jun 12 '15 at 9:22

SME (standing for Small or Medium Enterprise) has become the dominant term in my region and industry. This Wikipedia article suggests it might be more common in the EU than elsewhere.

Entrepreneur might be more what you're looking for - but, for example, someone who inherited and is happily running a family business might not self-identify as an entrepreneur.

Like everyone else (and as a small business owner myself), I don't think there's anything negative about the word "small". In fact here in the UK there are tax advantages to being counted as "small" - so personally, I'm quite keen to hang onto the label!

  • Agree with your nuance about entrpreneur. I think of that as someone starting an innovative business (which just happens to be small during its early stages), not something traditional like a mom-n-pop store or small restaurant. – Barmar Jun 11 '15 at 22:43

The sole owner of a small business could be called a proprietor.


Believe me (or google), small business owners play a disproportionately important role in innovation as well as in the economic and employment growth.

Since "small business"is a industry standard, this "small" carries positive connotations (and is BIG on tax saving).

Small business: Designation for firms of a certain size which fall below certain criteria (that varies from country to country) in terms of annual turnover, number of employees, total value of assets.

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    "...is BIG on tax saving", appreciate for the optimistic viewpoint! – Eilia Jun 12 '15 at 15:29

You can always say he is a microentrepreneur. (one who operates a microenterprise)

-In general, a microenterprise is considered a small business employing 10 people or less, and have a capital asset of less than PhP 3,000,000. Internationally, most microenterprises are family businesses employing one or two persons. These microentrepreneurs operate microenterprises by choice. Most microenterprise owners are primarily interested in earning a living to support themselves and their families. They only grow the business when something in their lives changes and they need to generate a larger income. According to information found on the Census.gov website,[1] microenterprises make up 95% of the 28 million US companies tracked by the census. Microenterprise is a common aspect in business communities everywhere. Wikipedia

  • In the US much larger enterprises are formally classified as "small businesses". The standard varies with the type and industry, but the modal upper limit is 500 employees and revenues of $15M. – StoneyB Jun 11 '15 at 21:41

I suggest two more positive ones, at least IMO: {developing|aspiring} business owner.

protected by user140086 Dec 4 '16 at 17:10

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