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The Middle Matters

New study explores the opportunities and challenges faced by diverse-owned businesses across the middle market 

 JPMorgan Chase and Next Street released The Middle Matters: Exploring the Diverse Middle Market Business Landscape, a new report that provides insights into the midsize businesses that power our economy on November 28, 2023.

Conducted and analyzed by Next Street, their research reveals that while midsize businesses generate significant revenue nationally and locally, there is an opportunity to better support them as they face headwinds such as increasing competition, slowing revenue growth and an uncertain economic outlook. 

The report details the U.S. midsize business as: 

Market: There are approximately 300,000 midsize businesses across the U.S. that generate $13 trillion in annual revenue and employ more than 40 million people

Importance: These businesses account for 33% of annual revenue generated and 30% of all private sector employment in the country, despite representing only 5% of the total number of national employer businesses. 

Discrepancy: Diverse-owned businesses represent roughly 30% of the middle market, but generate only about 20% of the total market revenue

Opportunity: Closing this gap could generate an additional $1.3 trillion in annual revenue, presenting a meaningful opportunity to support national economic health and prosperity. 

Chart showing Middle Market size by demographics

“Midsize businesses are critical to the health of our economy and communities,” said Terry Hill, Co-Head of Emerging Middle Market, JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking. “They create millions of jobs, as well as the products and services that power our day-to-day lives. By providing tailored solutions that meet their unique needs, we can help companies build lasting legacies that uplift communities for generations.” 

The Diverse Landscape 

To date, there has been limited investment in research that highlights diverse-, -women- and veteran-owned midsize businesses. Understanding the needs of midsize businesses that make up the middle market offers a significant opportunity to empower underserved business owners and bolster the economy.

Diverse-owned midsize businesses are, on average, 10 years younger and employ fewer employees than non-diverse-owned businesses. According to the businesses surveyed, diverse-owned companies are growing at a faster rate (32%) than their non-diverse counterparts (19%). That said, the report finds that diverse-owned midsize businesses face roadblocks to growth. 

Key challenges are: 

  • Accessing capital and advisory services
  • Acquiring growth financing and improving capital structure 
  • Creating and implementing strategic business and innovation plans 

In addition to exploring the current state of the middle market, the report describes opportunities for broader access to financial resources and overall support for midsize businesses. 

“There is growing support in the business community for a greater understanding of the middle market overall, and the dynamic businesses within it,” said Charisse Conanan Johnson, Co-CEO of Next Street. “We hope this new report serves as a call to action for middle market stakeholders to accelerate additional research efforts and solutions to serve the needs of diverse-owned midsize businesses.” 

Chart showing diversity ownership differences between small and mis-size businesses.

As an underpin in the U.S economy, the middle market is composed of a variety of midsize businesses (defined here as businesses with revenue between $11 million and $500 million) that underpin the U.S. economy. Their diversity spans industry, size, ownership, geography, and more. In this research, they focused on exploring the landscape for diverse-owned midsize businesses (which we define as Black-, Hispanic-, Latino(a)-, Asian-, and other people of color-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, and veteran-owned businesses). Additionally, they looked at three of the largest markets: Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles. 

By addressing capital and advisory gaps such as access to growth capital and succession planning, stakeholders could help diverse-owned businesses position themselves to generate as much as $1.3 trillion in additional annual revenue and employ three times as many people ten years from now. 

The middle market is a core component of the U.S. economy. It comprises 300,000 midsize businesses generating $13T in annual revenue and employing over 40 million people. Midsize businesses account for 33% of revenue generated and 30% of all private sector employment in the country, despite representing only 5% of the total number of national employer businesses. Together, the number of early midsize businesses (revenue between $11mm and $20mm) and emerging midsize businesses (revenue between $21mm and $100mm) account for nearly 90% of the U.S. middle market. They generate $5.4T in annual revenue, or more than 40% of total middle market revenue. 

The middle market is concentrated in five industries: Retail, Construction, Healthcare, Professional Services, and Wholesale, are the largest middle market industries and contribute 60% of the revenue.

Businesses in this stage are capital hungry and account for three out of four dollars in projected capital demand. They represent a large opportunity for stakeholders including business support organizations, financial institutions, and other service providers to build relationships that could generate long-term value for all.

Diverse-owned businesses are more concentrated, with the largest five industries making up 75% of the number of businesses. When examining the distribution of diverse-owned businesses across industries, there are opportunities for capital and service providers to target outreach or product solutions in industries like Manufacturing. 3 Diverse-owned businesses represent ~30% of midsize businesses but only account for ~20% of the revenue

Closing this gap presents an opportunity to generate $1.3T in additional annual revenue. This gap is further evidenced by a greater proportion of diverse-owned midsize businesses in the early and emerging segments and a smaller proportion in the established (businesses with revenue between $101mm and $500mm) segment relative to the overall middle market.

Diverse-owned businesses are younger and smaller, on average ten years younger, generate lower revenue, and have fewer employees – though notably, they employ proportionally more people of color. On average, there is a business maturity and valuation gap yielding disparities in wealth and employment for diverse owners and their employees. 

With this in mind, research showed that access to capital challenges exist for diverse-owned midsize businesses. 

  • Sixteen percent of diverse-owned businesses could not access financing, despite needing it, compared to 6% of non-diverse-owned businesses
  • Fewer diverse-owned businesses accessed financing than non-diverse-owned businesses due to high credit costs, difficulty navigating the application process, and lack of confidence in their credit application. 

In general, midsize businesses are seeking trusted partners for their growth journey. To scale successfully, these businesses need commercial banking support, succession planning services, and organizational and talent development, among other services. Stakeholders can support midsize businesses through access to, and awareness of, service offerings.

The three focus markets of Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles are large markets that currently make up ~12% of the national middle market. Compared to national figures, Chicago has a greater presence of midsize businesses in Transportation, Dallas in Administrative Services, and Los Angeles in Wholesale and Real Estate. Across the three cities, diverse-owned businesses have a greater presence in Professional Services, Construction, and Administrative Services compared to national figures.

Fewer and fewer

Understandably, a smaller percentage (12%) of midsize businesses generate over $100mm in annual revenue; these established midsize businesses collectively generate $7.5T in revenue per year (Table 3.1). There is an even smaller percentage (5%) of established diverse-owned midsize businesses (Figure 3.1). We observe a greater presence of diverse-owned businesses in the smaller revenue segments, particularly within the emerging segment. This finding highlights the importance of solutions for early and emerging diverse-owned businesses.

Chart showing Middle Market size by demographics

Mind the gap

There are 90,000 diverse-owned midsize businesses, representing 30% of the nationwide total. They generate $2.6T in annual revenue, representing 20% of the nationwide total (Figure 3.2). The average diverse-owned business has lower revenue compared to the average midsize business. Closing this average revenue gap represents an opportunity to generate $1.3T in additional revenue (assuming a non-zero-sum economy).

We find significant gaps between the revenue contribution of diverse-owned businesses in the small business space (41%) and the middle market space (20%) (Figure 3.3). The greatest percentage difference is observed for women-owned businesses, where women-owned small businesses account for 21% of all revenue in comparison to 9% for women-owned midsize businesses (Figure 3.3). 

The data reinforces the opportunity to provide diverse-owned businesses with the support needed to mitigate the disparities that stem from having less startup capital and lower education, among other existing factors. It also represents an opportunity to support diverse-owned small businesses on their journey into the middle market in ways that are described later in the report. 

Moving beyond “challenge accepted”

Chart showing diversity ownership differences between small and mis-size businesses.

Diverse-owned businesses have grown despite facing higher hurdles, including access to funding challenges, as highlighted below:

  • Black women entrepreneurs grapple with limited access to funding, a factor cited as a significant barrier to growth, often resorting to self-funding mechanisms instead of loans
  • Latino(a) businesses, despite showcasing robust business metrics, encounter a discrepancy in loan approval rates, especially for amounts exceeding $50,0008
  • Veteran-owned enterprises find themselves at a similar crossroads, with a substantial percentage unable to secure the necessary funding for growth and facing high rejection rates from lending institutions.
  • Asian-owned firms experienced a decline in being able to meet their full financial needs (i.e., amount of capital sought), witnessing a drop from 30.7% to 24.6% between 2019 and 2021)

    These challenges require a strategic approach to foster growth and break through existing barriers thereby paving the way for a more prosperous business environment with equal opportunities for all. To support the middle market, stakeholders including business support organizations, financial institutions, and service providers must understand the different types of businesses that represent the middle market.

Emerging solutions

In their exploration of the midsize business landscape, Next Street identified a series of tangible strategies designed to foster growth, inclusivity, and success within this dynamic sector.

Enter key partnerships: Collaborative alliances with local business service providers, mission- based lenders, private equity firms, and business development companies can amplify the support network available to midsize businesses.

Boost financial know-how of early midsize businesses: Financial institutions and business stakeholders should offer financial education programs to assist businesses in preparing for commercial banking relationships. This can include workshops, webinars, and online resources to improve financial literacy among business owners. 

Diversify services beyond financial assistance: Recognizing the diversity of needs within the middle market, stakeholders should provide insights into market trends, facilitate strategy discussions, and connect businesses with resources for succession planning and buyouts. 

About JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking

JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking is a business of JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), a leading global financial services firm with assets of $3.9 trillion and operations worldwide. Through its Middle Market Banking & Specialized Industries, Corporate Client Banking & Specialized Industries and Commercial Real Estate businesses, Commercial Banking serves emerging startups to midsize businesses and large corporations as well as government entities, not-for-profit organizations, and commercial real estate investors, developers and owners. Clients are supported through every stage of growth with specialized industry expertise and tailored financial solutions including credit and financing, treasury and payment services, international banking and more. Information about JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking is available at www.jpmorgan.com/commercial-banking.

About Next Street

Next Street designs and develops solutions to connect entrepreneurs and small business owners with the right resources at the right time, with a focus on small businesses facing disproportionate barriers. With a proven track record of nearly 20 years, an ongoing commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization, and an extensive network of small business advocates, operators and investors, Next Street accelerates the impact of institutions and advisors on small businesses and provides millions of businesses with the experts, tools and capital they need to thrive. Learn more at nextstreet.com.


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