ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

Americans are starting businesses during the pandemic

Launching a business in the midst of a pandemic-fueled recession may seem a risky proposition, but many Americans are seizing the moment to become entrepreneurs.

Aspiring business owners applied for licenses to start more than 1.5 million new businesses in the United States between August and October, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Some new entrepreneurs opened businesses after losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Others spotted opportunities in a changing business environment.

Joël Le Bon, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School in Baltimore, says the crisis has served as a stress test of the resilience of the U.S. economy. Amid hardship, opportunities have emerged, Le Bon said, especially for businesses that provide digital services — such as in the e-commerce, telecommunications, information technology and telemedicine sectors.

Meanwhile, industries where a physical experience is critical are having to adapt, Le Bon said, citing higher education, transportation and personal fitness.

Dozens of retail stores filed for bankruptcy protection in the first half of 2020, a pace that far exceeds retail bankruptcies for all of 2019, according to the Associated Press.

Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, and the relatively easy process of registering a new business — which takes an average of four days — adds incentive to take the leap.

Here are several entrepreneurs who recently started businesses during the pandemic.

Jennifer DeChant took over the Bath Sweet Shoppe in Bath, Maine, in June, soon after her prior employer required she move to keep her job.

Running the candy store allows DeChant to stay closer to home and provide comfort for those seeking a measure of normalcy.

“Chocolate is a coping mechanism,” said DeChant, who offers online ordering and curbside pickup as well as in-store shopping. “Customers want to be supportive of small businesses, and everyone has a good time in a candy store.”

Olivia Hutchison and Brianna Goad, who are sisters, started a web design and marketing firm — called Fetch: Branding & Marketing — in Johnson City, Tennessee, in June, after seeing how the pandemic put pressure on business owners. Coming from a family with small-business experience, “we decided to try and do our part to help the small business owner” succeed, Hutchison said.

The company offers web design and marketing solutions to help clients “establish and maintain the online presence they deserve” without breaking their budgets, Goad added.

Cody Warden and Tammy Nguyen, of San Diego, started their plant nursery, IvyMay & Co., in June to liven up homes as people spend more time indoors.

“We built our business around the idea of lockdown and quarantine,” Warden told a local news outlet.

They sell houseplants grown in a converted chicken coop and use contactless delivery to reduce health risks.

The pandemic “cast a dark shadow over Americans,” compromising people’s physical and mental health, Warden said. But houseplants are therapeutic, Nguyen said: Plants “make homes feel more alive” and boost a sense of well-being.

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