What is a small business?

Published July 1, 2007  | July 2007 issue

There is no ironclad definition of what constitutes a "small" business. The Small Business Administration defines a small business as anything with fewer than 500 employees, and a considerable amount of data collection and research uses this benchmark.

But by that definition, all but 12 businesses in North Dakota would have been considered small in 2005. For this reason, these articles use the (unofficial) terminology below to discuss firm size:

  • Nonemployer: 0 employees; self-employed
  • Micro: 1–9 employees
  • Small: 10–99 employees
  • Medium: 100–499 employees
  • Large: 500–999 employees
  • Very large: over 1,000 employees

Note, however, that this scale ignores the comparative size and scale of businesses among district states. For example, there are more businesses with 500 workers in Minnesota and Wisconsin than there are 100-worker firms in either of the Dakotas or Montana.