Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Guillermo Montes

Second Supervisor

Karyl Mammano


This hermeneutical phenomenological study of small business owners’ experiences in a rural New York State county was conducted to determine why small business owners started their business and how they define and measure success. The United States has spent billions of dollars on small business growth and was counting on small business success to drive economic recovery without a universally accepted measure of small business success and a limited understanding of how small business owners measured success. The findings of the study were: people became small business owners to achieve autonomy and personal happiness; they defined success as personal achievement; and small business owners measured success through employee judgments, market judgments, and owner judgments. Participants thought that owner judgment may also be related to the high failure rate of small businesses. Small business ownership was different from other businesses; owner’s motivations made a difference on whether a business was successful; and small business ownership was very personal and viewed as an extension of the owner themselves. Measurements of success in small businesses might change based on its stage of growth and the number of layers between an owner and the employee. The robust picture of small business ownership yielded from this study should be used to: aid small business owners in achieving success; reduce employee turnover in organizations; enable potential small business owners to determine if ownership suits them; and influence policy in developing methods, practices, and incentives that enable employment growth in small businesses.

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