It may sound absurd it first, but a bad economy actually can, in some ways, help small businesses grow. When smaller businesses are able to do a service or offer a product cheaper than the bigger companies can, they see the profit. While larger companies can hold out at the higher price points for a longer amount of time, the little guy is busy making and selling.
One example is that small businesses can get away with paying less salary than the big name businesses can. For instance; a prospective employee may be willing to work for minimum wage for a local office, but they would expect to receive a higher rate if applying at AT&T. Simply put, people expect larger businesses to pay higher salaries.
Another example is how more small businesses are willing to outsource their work to cheaper labor such as freelance workers than the bigger companies are. Larger companies will tend to lay off employees and make do with what they have, creating more unemployed workers. While the smaller companies will tend to hold onto the few workers they have and slowly expand their production by cutting expenses on other things.