Utah Stories

Biking for Small Business

Utah State Professor bikes across America to chronicle small business dreams come true


Illustration by Chris Bodily

Can you start a business with nothing? Or do you need angel investors and big-shots like those found on Shark Tank to come in and offer their connections and big bucks?

Utah State Professor Mike Glauser could be seen biking in five different states and 100 different cities last summer in his quest to better understand the changing nature of American small business and entrepreneurship.

In a presentation that Glauser offered at the Grand America during the past Governor’s Economic Summit, he presented his findings that, “We are on the verge of a major economic shift. Jobs are being replaced in every industry in every year thanks to robots.”

He added, “Robots in in the auto industry which once cost $200K are now just $80K. Robots are not only replacing factory workers, but are increasingly being used in surgery, warehousing and retail.”

Glauser describes “The coming employment shift, where corporate revenue has grown 20% in the past five years due to technology, and 47% of 702 occupations will become obsolete in several decades due to technology.”

But Glauser says there is a way for workers to not become obsolete, and that is to embrace technology and “go and create your own job.”

Glauser then showed a video of his 100-city bicycle touring trip where he met with dozens of business owners all over the United States who had found specific niches in mostly manufacturing jobs, but a few in retail and one in coffee roasting. These business owners had all had a few things in common. They had all charted their own course, and started their businesses without venture capital or bank loans, building their organizations up from the grassroots to serve their communities.

At the same time as Glauser’s presentation, there was another presentation offered on the venture funding group Mercado at the Grand America, but, Glauser says, “We are taught in business schools that the venture-funded model is the prototype. Only one third of one percent of entrepreneurs use venture funding.”

Instead Glauser finds that the new entrepreneur relies much more on skills and serving a niche community, than money. Most of the entrepreneurs Glauser interviewed had no entrepreneurial training and only a handful had a business background. Another commonality was their ability to create “multiple streams of revenue, where one company would be spun off into another company, or they would use earnings to invest in real estate.” Glauser said the key is to start a business that fills a need in the community, “offering products and services that people want.”

Sitting on the panel at the Grand America with Glauser were three business owners who created their businesses with little to no start-up capital.

While Glauser was chasing the “new American Dream” on his bicycle, a la Forrest Gump, many started to follow. Inc. Magazine, Forbes and Fast Company all began writing stories about his interesting field study. Glauser has received so much positive publicity over his 100 city, eight-week cross country tour that he started receiving book offers. Glauser’s book entitled Living the Dream on Main Street America is set to be released this month.


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