Small Businesses Thriving in the Downturn

By Tom Murphy, AP Business Writer

Some small businesses are not just surviving but thriving — even benefiting — from the economic weakness that has battered so many other smaller firms.

Some have carved a niche few rivals can match. Others are capitalizing on a fallen dollar to boost their exports. Or they're providing a service that defies a pullback in consumer spending.

And if they haven't piled up too much debt, some small businesses can still get loans, despite tougher lending standards since the financial crisis erupted.

Success stories include:

— Equinox Chemicals, a company in Albany, Ga., that's thrived by mixing a broad domestic customer base with overseas business. Equinox has capitalized on a fallen dollar to expand overseas markets for its products, which include chemicals for fragrances, food flavoring and electronics equipment.

— ECP Commercial Real Estate, a San Diego firm that fixes up foreclosed or abandoned properties to sell them and helps property owners avoid foreclosure.

— Inwindow Outdoor, a New York company that converts vacant storefronts into temporary, street-level advertising billboards.

These companies are resisting the economic pressures that have left many small businesses starved for credit and squeezed by the still-struggling economy.

"There's always those innovative entrepreneurs out there that have businesses that are flexible enough to do this type of thing," said Lydia Jones, director of the Small Business Development Center at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

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