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Small business optimism at its highest since 2009

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Small business optimism is at its highest mark since the Great Recession, according to the 2015 Capital One Small Business Confidence Score, an analysis of small business sentiment data collected by the Spark Business Barometer since 2009.

The Spark Business Barometer is a quarterly survey of small business owners to gauge their attitudes and perceptions of national and local economic conditions, current and future business prospects, and other factors impacting business growth. According to the survey, small business sentiment has increased 33 percent since 2009 following the depth of the Great Recession, and continues to improve in 2015.

"We've seen real improvement in business owners' confidence about the stability and sustainability of their operations -- indicating many entrepreneurs are focusing less on recovery and looking ahead toward new prospects and growth. This is a terrific sign for our local and national economies given the tremendous impact small businesses have on job creation and innovation," said Keri Gohman, head of Small Business Banking at Capital One. "But competing and growing in today's increasingly competitive and complex digital landscape can be tough – particularly for small businesses with limited funds, resources and time. Our goal is to make some of those resources more accessible, so small businesses can grow and succeed."

Despite their increasing optimism, small business owners continue to face challenges when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. According to the Capital One Spark Business survey of 505 small business owners conducted online by Harris Poll in April, 76 percent of owners face marketing challenges, with 39 percent claiming they have not executed any marketing initiatives in the past six months.

Some of the challenges uncovered by the survey include:

  • Identifying and reaching new customer prospects (41 percent)
  • Finding money to market their business (32 percent)
  • Gaining attention due to local competition (18 percent)
  • Getting advice on the best marketing approaches (18 percent)
  • Customer retention (17 percent)

More than 64 percent of small business owners feel they're unable to effectively market their businesses the way they'd like to, according to the survey. Meanwhile, a majority have the desire to increase marketing efforts – with nearly 70 percent of small businesses saying they would designate extra funds toward marketing efforts – yet only eight percent of small business owners have a mentor who can lend the necessary insight or strategic direction to do so.

In an effort to help bridge this gap for all small business owners across the country, Capital One and Pacific Community Ventures have partnered to present, an online mentoring platform matching small businesses located in or hiring from low-income communities with expert advisors in areas such as marketing, technology, finance, and more. 

"For small business owners, working with the right business advisor has a huge impact in achieving sustainable business growth," said Allison Kelly, managing director of Small Business Advising and Lending at Pacific Community Ventures. "And when small businesses thrive, communities thrive. With support from Capital One, can match skilled volunteer advisors with small business owners, fueling revenue growth and creating new quality jobs across the nation."

As part of this partnership, Capital One will also provide associate volunteers to serve as small business advisors. The launch of is part of Capital One's $150 million Future Edge initiative, designed to help individuals and entrepreneurs succeed in a digitally-driven economy.

As part of its ongoing initiative to recognize and reward its customers, Capital One has launched a  campaign aimed at helping small business owners obtain what they want most – more customers. The Spark Plug campaign gives Spark Business Bank customers in select markets a chance to win a custom advertising boost in their community. For more information on the Spark Plug program and how to submit an entry, visit Capital One Spark Business is also providing a wide variety of offers to their existing and prospective customers throughout the entire month of May. For more information, visit

The Capital One Spark Business survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Capital One within the United States between April 1 and 6, 2015, among 505 adults aged 18 and older, who are business owners with less than $10 million in annual revenue. Figures for annual revenue were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

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