The best small business gigs aren't confined to Silicon Valley or the northeast, a new study reveals.

CardHub's 2013 report on the best and worst cities to work for a small business, released Tuesday, points to hot small business hubs all over the country. Denver, Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle, and San Francisco topped the list of 30, while San Diego, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Riverside, California, and Detroit rounded out the bottom five. The Mile High City largely owed its top spot to a high number of businesses per capita, while Detroit was dragged down by small net job growth and a high unemployment rate.

1. Denver

The Mile High City boasts nearly 30 businesses with fewer than 250 employees per 1,000 residents, the second fastest-growing workforce in the country, and the fifth-highest wage for new hires. And the good news goes beyond the city limits: 97 percent of employers in Colorado are classified as small businesses. 

2. Boston

Despite the relatively high cost of living, Boston ranks in the top 10 in terms of small businesses per capita, small business vitality, unemployment rate, disposable income, and hours worked.

3. Minneapolis

Minneapolis may be just the place to set out on a low-stress, high-yield job search: the city boasts the least competition for jobs, while also ranking in the top 10 when it comes to small business vitality, industry variety, and a low-stress environment.

4. Seattle

The Emerald City scores high on a number of fronts, coming in fifth nationally in terms of small businesses per capita and second for small business vitality. Seattle also lands in the top 10 for unemployment, new hire earnings, and industry variety.

5. San Francisco

The gateway to Silicon Valley ranks fifth in terms of both small business vitality and net small business job growth, and offers the second highest wages to new hires (good news, considering the high cost of living).


The five cities rounding out the bottom of the list, while all on the upswing, continue to struggle against sluggish recovery from the Great Recession and lackluster job growth.

Detroit, hit especially hard by the recession, is on the mend thanks to auto industry bailouts. But the Motor City continues to struggle against a lack of industry variety and relatively low new hire earnings. Riverside, California, earned the dubious distinction of being one of the overall worst places to work for a small business and ranks last in terms of number of small businesses per capita, small business vitality, and unemployment. Sacramento is struggling against high unemployment and below-average job growth, while Philadelphia and San Diego nudge towards the middle of the pack thanks largely to on-the-mend job growth and increasing industry variety.

The report organizes the 30 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., as determined by the Census Bureau, using metrics that include net small business job growth, monthly earnings for new hires, industry variety, and stress index ranking, all weighted to develop the final rankings.