Big Apple, Small Business

Napoleon scoffed at the English calling them a nation of shopkeepers. Little did he understand the core of the British economy. So too, New York City, a city of Wall Street and international capital is also, at its core, a city of small businesses. The big story is the small stories that together create the economy of most people. A walk to the Brooklyn Navy Yard on a Monday afternoon and you will see real manufacturing, or stray through Chinatown on a Sunday morning and you see real family enterprise, sons and grandsons and grandmothers. These stories have been too long lost among the headlines and this site aims to contribute to correcting the balance. Most importantly, the city’s small businesses are what makes New York feel like home for New Yorkers. Small businesses is what makes each of our neighborhoods special and our own. 

How much do you know about small business in NYC?

There are over 2 million small businesses in New York City and they make up 99% of all the city’s businesses employing more than 50% of the city’s workforce

Over 90% of the firms exporting their goods from New York City are small businesses and that as far as start-ups, New York City is regularly in the Top Ten in the nation.

Since 2011, New York’s manufacturing sector has stopped bleeding jobs abroad and has added almost 4,000 new jobs, including 1,000 in the last 12 months. Some sectors like 3D printing are poised to grow.

Despite the dramas of collapses, takeovers and the recession, family businesses remain the soul of small business. They have what many companies lack, a tradition to cherish not trash. Research shows that children who know their inter-generational family story demonstrate more resilience and so too with small businesses. 


Take a look at the stories featured here, brought to you by NYU’s News and Documentary graduate journalism program. We are convinced that you, like us, will go away feeling inspired, or at least a little more encouraged, that the biggest bite of the Big Apple is small, and that small business is the big story.