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Survey: Small-Business Owners Band Together During Economic Struggles A new report finds a majority of small-business owners spend their time and money supporting fellow small merchants and their communities.

By Cheryl Winokur Munk

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Shoals

When it comes to supporting local businesses, entrepreneurs are their own best friends, according to the results of the most recent American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, published today.

Seventy percent of entrepreneurs surveyed said they purchase and source goods and services from other small businesses. What's more, 96 percent of small businesses said they are committed to supporting their local communities through a variety of activities including donating to local causes and participating in community projects. Additionally, 83 percent said they shop at independently owned businesses in their neighborhoods for non-business related purchases.

The semi-annual report was conducted in February and March. It surveyed 933 owners and managers of companies with fewer than 100 employees.

In light of the economic slump over the past several years, many small businesses have struggled to survive. Entrepreneurs know from experience that success or failure can come down to a few sales, so it's not surprising that small-business owners are making an extra effort to help others who may be in similar situations, says Alice Bredin, founder of Bredin Inc., a marketing consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., who consults for American Express OPEN.

Related: Tough Credit Conditions Predicted for the Remainder of 2013

Bredin says she doesn't expect this strong show of support to dwindle when the economy improves. "When you've seen people you know go out of business, you just don't forget that," she says. "For many people it will be a permanent shift."

The survey also found the uncertain economy remains the top challenge to small-business growth. Sixty-four percent of respondents report feeling "stressed out" by the economy, which is taking a toll on their short-term planning. Half of the small-business owners surveyed plan to increase business spending over the next six months, consistent with results of the same survey conducted six months ago.

What's more, 31 percent of respondents said they plan to hire in the next six months, with retailers among the most likely to increase staff. That's a slight upturn from the 29 percent of respondents who said they planned to hire in the fall survey. Meanwhile, 35 percent of respondents said they do not need to hire in order to grow their businesses, up from 24 percent last fall.

Related: Survey: Fewer Small Businesses Expect to Hire or Grow

Cheryl Winokur Munk is a freelance writer and editor in West Orange, NJ. She is a former reporter for Dow Jones Newswires and American Banker where she covered the financial services industry. She earned a B.S. in journalism from Boston University.

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