Survey: OKC is the 10th best city in which to start a business

Travis Whitmire has his hair cut by Jake Phelps as Jerrod Smith looks on at Weldon Jack. Photo/Shannon Cornman

Travis Whitmire has his hair cut by Jake Phelps as Jerrod Smith looks on at Weldon Jack. Photo/Shannon Cornman

Oklahoma City was recently named the 10th best city to start a small business by a San Francisco based professional services website.

After surveying more than 12,000 entrepreneurs in 82 cities nationwide, Thumbtack.com’s Small Business Friendliness Survey found OKC small business owners have a favorable opinion of the state’s small business environment. The survey examined business owners’ views of the tax code, health and safety, labor and hiring, licensing and zoning regulations, among other categories. Oklahoma City scored As in the areas of overall friendliness toward small businesses, zoning and licensing laws and training and networking programs; the later was rated No. 3 in the nation. The state’s licensing forms, requirements and fees, and the “friendliness” of the tax code and other tax-related regulations were among the largest factors determining a city’s “overall friendliness” to small businesses, according to the survey. Jerrod Smith, proprietor of Weldon Jack, a men’s barber and handmade aesthetics shop, agrees with the survey’s findings overall, but pointed to the difference between being “friendly” to small businesses and investing in them. “The way a community thrives is when you’re investing, not only care and concern, in a business but putting your money where your mouth is,” he said.

By the numbers

The Thumbtack report found that 63 percent of small business owners in OKC believe they pay the “right share of taxes,” earning the city a B in the tax code friendliness category, which is something that Smith also agreed with. “I think the way [taxes] work is fair,” he said. “I have not had any problems with it.” Grading cities in 38 states, the study asked 12,632 business owners and operators questions based on 11 metrics. Oklahoma City scored an A to A+ in six of the categories. The city’s lowest score was a D+ for “ease of hiring,” rating the city 68th out of 82 in that category. Smith owns and operates Weldon Jack and has not began the hiring process, which is something he is not looking forward to doing, he said. “The only thing that I’ve been nervous about since day one is hiring,” he said. “Because it gets a little more dramatic, especially with healthcare changing and payroll taxes. They don’t mess around with that stuff. James Helton, owner and operator of Choppers Hair Design, also concurred with the survey’s findings, but said that he moved his shop from Oklahoma City to Bethany, partly for the even greater ease of working with the smaller municipality. “Oklahoma City is a little bit difficult for a small, small business,” Helton said. “In the grand scheme of things, we’re considered a tiny business.”

Where to improve

Both Smith and Helton agreed that Oklahoma City could improve on its networking and training programs that are offered to small businesses. For Helton, it is a matter of training people how to actually network. Whereas Smith sited a need for the city to simplify and update some of the information that is already available. “Really, it’s the investment of how the information is disseminated. There could be really easy ways to reach people,” he said. “You almost need to make it a Opening a Small Business for Dummies in Oklahoma website.” The U.S. Small Business Administration (USBA) typically decides if a company is a “small business” by examining whether the business is independently owned, organized for profit and not dominant in its field. The size of a business, how many workers and the annual receipts, are also a factor, but that is conditional to the business’ subsequent industry, according to the USBA’s website. Although the survey did not include cities in all 50 states, the company believes the survey is an accurate representation of the country because it compared the data of those surveyed with public data of the general business population, which “revealed that the Thumbtack survey sample has a similar distribution to the American small business community in terms of age and size with a slight bias towards younger businesses and a general exclusion of the largest-size businesses,” according to the report. Eighty-one percent of service businesses are non-employer firms and 57 percent of small businesses in the survey sample reported having no employees. Nationally, 62 percent of small businesses have 1 to 4 employees, while 79 percent of businesses surveyed have the same amount. Two percent of national businesses have 100 or more employees, compared to zero employees for those companies surveyed. Representatives in every state answered the survey, but states without at least 30 respondents were excluded from the report. Weldon Jack is located at 3621 N. Western Ave. in Oklahoma City, and Choppers Hair Design is located at 6728 N.W. 39th St. in Bethany.   headline: okc.biz: Top 10 list: A survey has found that OKC is the 10th best city to start a small business in.

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