Categorized | Business

Census: Half of businesses are home-based


More than half (51.6 percent) of all businesses that responded to the 2007 Survey of Business Owners (SBO) were operated primarily from someone’s home in 2007, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Only 6.9 percent of these home-based businesses had $250,000 or more in receipts, while 57.1 percent of home-based businesses brought in less than $25,000.

About 23.8 percent of employer respondent businesses and 62.9 percent of nonemployer respondent businesses were home-based.

“Most businesses are started by people who dig into their own pockets for at least some of their start-up capital,” said Census Bureau Deputy Director Thomas Mesenbourg. “This is true for both firms with employees and those without them. Furthermore, more than one in five (20.8 percent) of respondent businesses used no start-up capital at all.”

The Census Bureau is releasing two data sets from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners: Characteristics of Businesses: 2007 and Characteristics of Business Owners: 2007.

The data sets include national-level statistics on owner’s age, education level, veteran status and primary function in the business; family-owned and home-based business status; types of customers and workers; and sources of financing for start-up, expansion or capital improvements.

All findings are for respondent firms only.

Roughly three in 10 (30.6 percent) of the respondent firms that required start-up capital launched their business with less than $5,000. Of the firms that needed start-up capital, 17.5 percent of employer firms needed less than $5,000; for nonemployer firms, the figure was 35.8 percent.

At the other end of the spectrum, 1.5 percent of the firms needing start-up capital required $1 million or more for this purpose.

Other highlights from the reports include:

Characteristics of Businesses

* In 2007, more than half of women-owned businesses (58.2 percent) and equally men- and women-owned businesses (58.1 percent) were home-based; for businesses owned by men, the figure was 49.1 percent.

* Most nonminority-owned (54.4 percent) and equally minority- and nonminority-owned firms (56.0 percent) were home-based, while 46.5 percent of minority-owned firms were home-based.

* Most veteran-owned (55.4 percent), nonveteran-owned (52.9 percent), and equally veteran- and nonveteran-owned (55.9 percent) businesses were home-based.

* One in 10 businesses (10.4 percent) was started or acquired by owners who used a credit card to finance the start-up or acquisition of their business. A similar percentage (10.7 percent) financed their start-up or acquisition with a business loan from a bank or financial institution.

* Most firms (72.7 percent) reported that sales to individuals accounted for at least 10 percent of their total sales; 1.9 percent of firms reported that sales to the federal government accounted for at least 10 percent of their total sales; 5.2 percent reported that sales to state and local governments accounted for at least 10 percent of total sales; and finally 35.3 percent reported that sales to other businesses and organizations accounted for at least 10 percent of their total sales.

* Among firms with payroll any time during 2007, 75.4 percent had full-time paid employees and 58.0 percent had part-time paid employees. In addition, 5.3 percent of employer firms used paid day laborers; 7.3 percent used staff from a temporary help service; 1.3 percent used leased employees; and 36.1 percent used contractors, subcontractors, independent contractors or outside consultants.

* About 2.1 percent of all firms operated as a franchised business. E-commerce sales were reported by only 6.6 percent of firms. For 7.9 percent of all firms, exports made up at least some of the sales.

* About 28.2 percent of firms classifiable by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status were family-owned. These family-owned firms accounted for 42.0 percent of classifiable firms’ receipts.

Characteristics of Business Owners

* About half (50.5 percent) of owners of firms reported that their business was their primary source of income. This was true of 68.6 percent of owners with employees and 42.8 percent of those without them.

* More than three in four owners (77.1 percent) reported they founded their business, while 15.8 percent of owners reported they purchased their business. Another 7.3 percent of owners reported they acquired their business through an inheritance, transfer of ownership or as a gift.

* More than six in 10 (60.5 percent) owners reported that their primary function was providing services and/or producing goods; 46.9 percent said their primary role was managing day-to-day operations of their business; and 39.8 percent reported financial control as their primary role.

* About 62.9 percent of owners reported working 40 or more hours per week in their business; the same was true for 34.3 percent of owners of nonemployer firms.

* Business owners were well-educated: 50.8 percent of owners of respondent firms had a college degree.

* About 36.5 percent of owners were 55 or older, with another 29.6 percent between the ages of 45 and 54. On the other hand, 31.7 percent of owners of firms were between the ages of 25 and 44 and only 2.2 percent were younger than 25.

* About 7.9 percent of veteran owners reported they were service-disabled.

* About 13.6 percent of the owners were foreign-born. Among selected ownership groups, 55.9 percent of Hispanic owners (who can be of any race) were foreign-born, as were 82.3 percent of Asian owners, and 74.9 percent of owners reporting some other race, such as Brazilian, Cape Verdean, Sudanese, or multiracial.

The data were collected from more than 2.3 million firms that were asked to report information about the characteristics of up to four individuals with the largest share of ownership (respondent firms); additional owners were not surveyed regarding characteristics.

Detail may not add to total because of rounding or because a Hispanic firm may be of any race. Moreover, owners had the option of selecting more than one race and are included in all races they selected.

The Survey of Business Owners is conducted every five years as part of the economic census. The 2007 survey collected data from a sample of more than 2.3 million businesses. Data collected in a sample survey are subject to sampling variability, as well as nonsampling errors.

Sources of nonsampling errors include errors of response, nonreporting and coverage.

More details concerning the SBO survey design, methodology and data limitations is available at

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