Female one person business owners: theoretical dimensions and analysis of female economic independence

Roberts, Louise M. (1992) Female one person business owners: theoretical dimensions and analysis of female economic independence. (MPhil thesis), Kingston University, .


One person businesses are a neglected but significant proportion of the small business population. They were the fastest growing section of the self-employed in the 1980s, and growth has continued in the early 1990s. Previous small business research has failed to distinguish one person businesses from small businesses with employees, and from homeworkers or labour only subcontractors. Businesses defined here as one person businesses, are those which operate with their own capital and equipment, control their own labour and the future of their own enterprise, and have two or more customers. A sample of 100 female and 50 male one person businesses drawn from London and North Surrey, were interviewed face-to-face using a semi-structured questionnaire. All interviews were tape recorded. Issues relating to gender and business size were investigated and a number of differences found. Evidence of the 'Glass Ceiling' effect was anticipated but little evidence was found that more women are choosing self-employment because of frustrated careers as employees. A majority of one person business owners have growth aspirations and one person businesses may well be the first stage of larger businesses. The data shows that alternative life-cycle and growth scenarios are possible. A life-history model is developed to illustrate the alternative courses that a one person business may take. Non-growth businesses fall into two distinct sub-groups. First, those which do not have the scope to grow, and second, those whose owners do not desire growth. The findings extend knowledge of the small business in significant ways. Fist, a detailed, in depth characterisation of the one person business is provided. Second, it is shown that not all one person businesses should be treated as the same, and third, that most one person business owners aspire growth while others are inhibited from growing by a range of influences. The findings have important policy implications for governments seeking to help small business growth. The thesis concludes with suggestions on how research on the one person business may be extended and consolidated.

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