Why Austin Is the Rockstar of Small-Business Cities


Small is getting big in Austin. The Texas capital was named the #1 place in America to start a business  the top city for “small-business vitality”, and the top city for launching a technology startup. 

How did Austin climb to the upper echelons of the small-business and startup landscape? The reason may surprise entrepreneurs.

In the heart of a state associated with cowboy capitalists, the small-business scene in Austin is thriving in large part by embracing a model that has more to do with a supportive community than rugged individual risk-taking. Put simply, Austin’s startups and small-businesses are borrowing from the city’s legacy as a place where music lovers connect and build each other up—using the city’s network effects to create something bigger.

Most people in the Austin business community will make time to help fellow entrepreneurs, even when there’s no apparent or immediate benefit for themselves,” says Allen Stone, co-founder of PetCru, a two-year-old start-up in the city that provides in-home pet care services. “From the day we launched PetCru, we’ve had Austin-based pet-related businesses seek us out to support us, participate in events with us, and share industry learnings.”

Austin’s lessons for success are particularly important as small businesses play an ever-larger role in the U.S. economy. While corporate America has been cutting jobs, employment at small business start-ups has increased.

There are a few reasons for the shift to the small. It’s become easier than ever to start up a company in an era of e-commerce, online business education and Obamacare health care options. Pop culture has added to the allure of entrepreneurship, with shows like Shark TankSilicon Valley and The Profit fueling small biz and start-up hopes.

What’s more, many young people in particular are saying “no thanks” to jobs in traditional corporate America, having seen their parents laid off.

So what is Austin getting right?

Part of Austin’s formula for a small business surge is fairly well established: create an environment with the right pieces, including investors, good business schools, incubators, not too much red tape, and a critical mass of people with a business idea and big aspirations.

It’s different in Austin. Austin folks truly celebrate each other’s wins. And they have a greater sense of wanting to give back.

It’s just this sort of behavior that is allowing the small to get big best in this city.


Some of the small businesses in Austin that are going a long way:


Freestyle Language Center


801 Rio Grande St.

What it is: A brand new language school aimed at adult learners.

Why it's cool: Located in a beautiful house in the Austin area, the school combines small size traditional classes with events that emphasize food, wine, culture, and conversation. They teach Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese, and offer specialized classes for people in specific professions, like in the legal, health care, and business management fields.


WhiteStar Manufacturing

11900 FM 812 in Del Valle, Tex.


What it is: A full-service apparel manufacturing facility near Austin. 

Why it's cool: WhiteStar can put together single garments for one person, or it can manufacture several hundred garments for a local designer. It serves as a sort of incubator for designers, with studio space and staff available to help move from sales sample to final production.