What is the Difference Between a Small Business and a Startup? - Onlineworld.ng

What is the Difference Between a Small Business and a Startup?

Sodiq J. Sodiq J.
July 15, 2023
What is the Difference Between a Small Business and a Startup?


What is the Difference Between a Small Business and a Startup?

In entrepreneurship, people often use the terms "small business" and "startup" interchangeably. Yet, they have distinct meanings and characteristics. While both entail entrepreneurial endeavors, they operate under distinct conditions. This has raised the common question, "What is the difference between a small business and a startup?"

While there are many differences between a small business and a startup, there is a key one. A small business operates within established markets and seeks constant growth and stability. However, a startup is a newly founded company with a scalable business model focusing on disruptive innovation and rapid growth. 

To learn more, keep reading, as this article will examine other differences between small businesses and startups. These include their scale, growth potential, innovation, funding, risk tolerance, and exit strategies. By understanding these distinctions, you can plot a path to success.

1. Size and Growth Potential

One of the primary distinctions between small and startup businesses is size and growth potential. Their limited size and operational scope distinguish small enterprises. Typically, they have few employees and serve a local or specialized market. Also, their primary goal is constant expansion and stability. 

Startups, in contrast, are newly founded businesses with a scalable business model. Innovative products, services, or business models often have a high growth potential. They also seek to disrupt existing markets or create entirely new ones.

2. Innovation and Disruption

Focusing on innovation and disruption is another crucial differentiating factor. Small businesses operate within established industry structures. Hence, they offer their target market preexisting products or services. Their primary goal is not a disruptive innovation, though they may offer variations or enhancements. 

In contrast, startups are motivated to introduce novel, game-changing concepts. They seek to revolutionize industries or create new markets. Hence, innovation challenges the status quo and establishes a competitive advantage.

3. Investment and Financing

We can find another difference between a small business and a startup in investment and financing. Often, small businesses are self-funded or rely on conventional financing methods. These include personal savings, bank loans, or family and friend investments. 

They generally do not pursue large outside-investment through channels other than those listed. 

In contrast, startups seek funding from outside sources to sustain their rapid expansion. They actively pursue angel investors, venture capitalists, and incubators and accelerators for startups. They may also pursue many funding rounds to support their ambitious expansion ambitions.

4. Risk and Timeframe

The last on our list of differences between a small business and a startup is the risk and timeframe. Small businesses are less hazardous investments as they operate within established markets and seek stability. Often, they concentrate on sustainable growth as opposed to rapid expansion. 

In contrast, startups accept greater risk and operate in dynamic, swiftly changing markets. They face a greater risk of failure but aim to get a large market share fast. To establish themselves in the market, startups operate in shortened timeframes and prioritize rapid growth.


Small businesses and startups are both entrepreneurial ventures. Yet, they operate under different conditions and pursue different objectives. Small businesses prioritize stability and consistent growth within established markets. In contrast, startups embrace disruption and innovation, aiming for rapid growth.

Blog authors

Sodiq J.
Sodiq J.
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