Small Businesses

"Small businesses provide the feeling that a real person is behind it all, someone who cares more about giving us a quality product or service, over just taking our hard-earned dollars."

Annie Bukhman, American designer and photographer
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This Business English ESL lesson plan on small businesses has been designed for business professionals or other adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of an economy. Without small businesses, there would be no large businesses, and there would be no competition to regulate prices and quality. Yet small businesses often find themselves pushed out of the market by their larger competitors. Most governments claim they want to help small businesses, but their actions suggest otherwise. In this Business English lesson plan on small businesses, students will have the opportunity discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the challenges small businesses face and how important they are for the economy.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

Financial Review | Small business: backbone of the economy or a burden?

The article looks at the political dogma that small businesses are the backbone of an economy, and asks whether they really are worth the billions that governments spend to assist them. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was written? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below at home. In the class, the students will answer a number of conversation questions directly or indirectly related to the content of the video.

The video for this class is a TED Talk called “Small Business Big Results” which looks at the contributions small businesses make to their local communities.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means, if they agree with it and how it could relate to business. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including the definition of a small business, family-run businesses, and how governments can help small businesses.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with small businesses such as franchise, artisan and go under. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the conversation questions. Before the conversation, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about small businesses. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as how small businesses can take advantage of social media and e-commerce, the challenges of small businesses exporting, and the sustainability of small businesses.


After the class, students will write a briefing note on the challenges of operating a small business. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise business-style writing as well as improving their grammar with the feedback from their teacher.


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2 thoughts on “Small Businesses”

  1. Hey there! The ‘Financial Review | Small business: backbone of the economy or a burden?’ reading is now behind a paywall.

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