Small business owners are often some of the most innovative entrepreneurs. This is in part by necessity; small businesses have to be innovative to compete with larger companies and stay on top of ever-shifting market dynamics. But there’s also something about small business owners that is conducive to innovation. Small business owners tend to be courageous, confident, curious people who are eager to try new things and find better ways of working. For all of these reasons, 2015 is likely to be another big year for small business innovation.

Cultivating an Entrepreneurial Culture

Braydon Moreno is the CEO of ROBO 3D, a 3D printer company based in San Diego. His company is trying to build a more innovative workplace by hiring and retaining the right people. “I think the most important part of a company’s success and growth is to create a collaborative, exciting, entrepreneurial workplace culture,” Moreno says. “Our goal is to be one of the dominant players in 3D printing so our team must be passionate, motivated, and ecstatic to work their tails off.”

Moreno’s company has also taken advantage of online hiring tools and efficient online networking to hire freelancers. “We’ve stayed extremely resourceful and lean,” says Moreno. “While we were growing and needing help with graphic design, web design, engineering, and other creative work, we managed to build a team of freelancers to get done with some immediate, affordable projects. It’s important for small businesses to use the online resources at their disposal.”

Making Better-Informed Business Decisions

Maya Gupta is the CEO of Artifact Puzzles, a company that makes high-end laser cut wood jigsaw puzzles. Her company has used several innovative tools and processes to boost productivity and drive business decisions based on customer feedback.

Gupta’s company uses a shared Google Calendar for employees to jointly create their own flexible work schedules by marking their planned work hours. This has reorganized their workflows to boost output by 20%. They’ve also used SurveyMonkey to do customer surveys to help make decisions about product packaging and other puzzle design issues.

“As a micro-manufacturer, we now have the ability to create very small batches of puzzles and test how well they sell before stocking up,” Gupta says. “The Internet provides a more direct relationship to customers that makes it easier and faster to close the feedback loop. With our customer surveys, even the customers who were in the minority told us that they appreciated having a chance to vote.”

Making Easier Online Sales

Small businesses and solo entrepreneurs can sell products online and fulfill orders with fast, efficient, affordable systems that work as well as those of a big company.

James Fayal is the founder of Zest Tea, a premium blend tea company that sells “High Energy Teas for High Energy People.” Since founding his company in January 2014, Fayal has used several online tools to make his business profitable and productive. “We use online tools, such as Shopify to host our online shop, Olark for live chatting with customers, Yotpo for customer reviews, ShipStation for fulfillment automation, and HubSpot for inbound marketing,” Fayal says. “ShipStation has saved us hundreds of hours preparing customer shipments for our tea blends. We also use Stripe for online credit card payments from wholesalers and corporate clients.”

Going Mobile – and Going Global

Peleg Lindenberg, COO of 911 Restoration, said that mobile marketing is increasingly important to his business. “2015 will be the year of going mobile, and we have come to realize that an increasing number of web searches for our services are being performed on mobile devices,” Lindenberg says. “Our marketing efforts to these smart phone users has followed suit, and that’s why we are pushing deeper into mobile SEO and PPC strategies.”

With the rise of mobile devices, small businesses can serve customers anywhere in the world, anytime of day. Colleen Toumayan, founder of Toumayan Group, a PR firm based in Southern California, says that one of the most prevalent online tools has been the most helpful to expand her business’s global reach: LinkedIn. “LinkedIn allows me to find compatible companies worldwide that otherwise I might not be able to find,” Toumayan says. “We have made contact with companies in India and Israel for specific expertise that we need.”

John Paul Engle, President of Knowledge Capital Consulting, has built a global team to enable his boutique management consulting firm to serve clients and work on projects 24 hours a day. “We recruit team members in different time zones – US Central Time, Germany, and Japan – so that there is always someone working on a project,” said Engle. “That gives us 3 work days in any 24 hour period. We use Google Docs to collaborate with coworkers around the globe, so that several people can work on the same spreadsheet at the same time. Google Docs makes us device independent. Any computer or mobile device can be our work computer.”

Whether it’s a high-tech industry, a professional services firm, or a seemingly “old-fashioned” industry like jigsaw puzzles, small business innovation is present and booming. There are great tools and resources available today to help small businesses scale up, work more efficiently, connect with customers, reduce costs, and close sales. Hopefully all business leaders can find inspiration and emulate this spirit of innovation during the New Year ahead.