If one thing can be said about the present economy in New Zealand, it’s that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have become a very large part of it.  These may not be major companies, but these businesses, many of them self-starters and a growing number of them created by women, have become such a force that the Small Business Minister has recently announced the creation of an SME Research Hub to provide a wealth of business information for SME owners and employees.

To emphasize the important role that these enterprises play in the business landscape, here are 10 interesting facts about SMEs in New Zealand today:

  1. There are currently 460,000 SMEs in the country, employing over 900,000 workers.  That makes up 30% of the workforce as a whole.
  2. In total, 97% of enterprises in New Zealand today are small businesses with fewer than 20 employees each.
  3. Despite their small size, SMEs contribute an impressive 28% to New Zealand’s GDP.
  4. In general, smaller businesses have higher “birth” and “death” rates than other businesses.  On average, 50% of enterprises with fewer than 20 employees are still in operation after 10 years.
  5. Employees in SMEs are overwhelmingly older.  In the past decade, the number of self-employed individuals aged 20-39 has decreased, while the number of those over 50 has steadily increased.
  6. SMEs are safer places to work.  Compared to larger businesses, SMEs tend to spend more time and resources on workplace safety, while also spending less time and resources on workplace regulations.
  7. Financing for SMEs is in very good shape.  In recent studies, 86% of those who requested debt financing were approved, while 76% of those who requested equity financing were approved.
  8. SMEs are extremely diverse.  Almost every industry in the country is represented by SMEs and those businesses are thriving.  That’s a record few other countries can boast.
  9. They may be small, but SMEs pay well.  The average salary in businesses with 19 or fewer employees was around $42,000 per year as of the latest figures.
  10. SMEs are trying to expand their horizons.  While they have had resounding domestic success, it has been more difficult for small and medium enterprise owners to reach outside New Zealand, with limited experience in expansion stated as the biggest obstacle.  As the prominence of SMEs grows, however, that imbalance promises to correct itself.


As you can see, the numbers on SMEs are quite encouraging and the field is wide open to women as well as men.  If you’re looking to start your own business in New Zealand there is no better time.  SMEs are the wave of the future, so jump on today and you can ride your way to success in no time!



Awhimai is a business coach and consultant passionate about women in business and leadership. Find out more at www.awhimai.nz and www.iwahine.nz