- More than one million mothers lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Many of those moms have started their own businesses.
- Opportunities and voids have been created during the COVID-19 pandemic, and moms are starting businesses to fill those voids.
Bella Graham enjoyed working as a Multi-Unit Spa Manager for XpresSpa in Nevada, thriving on interaction with customers and fellow employees. But she kept having “maybe one day” moments about starting her own business; then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
In March 2020, at 7 months pregnant, Graham was furloughed indefinitely. While home with her baby and thinking about her next move, inspiration struck. Now, a little over a year later, she is the owner and founder of Aperfit Consulting, a consulting firm that helps retail business owners improve their employee retention. The pandemic lockdown allowed Graham to launch her venture and reach the large droves of people who were operating remotely. She lost a job but found a business.
Launching a Business During the Pandemic
The idea of starting a new business can seem daunting, especially with many businesses shutting their doors during the pandemic. “About 1.3 million fewer mothers of children under 18 were working in September 2021 than in February 2020, a loss of about 5.6% of working mothers,” notes Wendy Chun-Hoon, the director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor. But people take the plunge and start their own businesses for a variety of reasons. “Sometimes it’s out of necessity; ‘I lost my job’ or ‘I’m on furlough for an indefinite length of time’ or ‘I need to have income,’” explains Terri Denison, the Georgia district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
For others, the pandemic created a void that these moms could fill. After being furloughed from her job as a marketing coordinator in April of 2020, Lauren Beckman was overwhelmed and stressed. Her husband also lost his job, and her son’s school was shut down.
Bella Graham, Owner and Founder of Aperfit Consulting
— Bella Graham, Owner and Founder of Aperfit Consulting
While looking for activities to keep her son busy, she saw an Instagram video about making mask chains. She shared photos of what she made for her son on social media and unexpectedly started receiving orders. The demand grew, and soon Beckman started making jewelry as well. In August and September of 2021, she launched Henry Reese and LB Beadz.
While the mom of two went back to work part-time to continue to support her family, she held on to her businesses. They were birthed out of a need, and the pandemic provided the perfect opportunity for a business to grow from her passion.
“It kind of reawakened my creativity inside of me,” Beckman explains. “The financial aspect has [also] been a huge reward. I’ve met so many great people through the journey.” She notes the creative outlet also helped her mentally. “It has been an amazing outlet for dealing with stress. Beading is meditating for me.”
While the pandemic has created opportunities for some business owners, its’ effects have not been kind to all small businesses.
How the Pandemic Has Affected Small Businesses
Many businesses initially closed to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19. Eventually, supply chain issues, surging costs for specialized cleaning, and purchasing protective supplies and masks for employees drove costs upwards, making it harder for businesses to bounce back. A study released in April 2021 found that there were up to one-third more business closures than normal during the first year of the pandemic.
“I think it really did expose the vulnerability of companies in terms of risk management and bringing to the forefront that it’s important to plan for contingencies,” notes Denison.
Elleni Berhe had to shut down her medical and legal interpreting business. Doctors’ offices closed their doors when the pandemic lockdown started, and people weren’t venturing out in person. Her clientele dried up. “That was a very intimidating moment…the ‘now I have no income’ moment. I was good at saving money and putting money aside for an emergency fund. [But] how long will the emergency fund last me with what I have?” she questioned then.
As a single mother, Berhe said she had to act fast to continue to support her two children. She looked for the easiest way to start a business doing something she enjoyed. She secured her real estate license and started working in the field in July 2020. Berhe ultimately founded Dinber Logix and Real Estate, adding the component of providing dispatching services to truck drivers.
Despite the harsh impact of the pandemic shutdowns, Berhe was able to take a difficult situation and turn it around to her advantage.
The Highs and Lows of Starting a Business
Starting a business has never been an easy venture. Only half of small businesses are able to stay open after five years. Figuring out how to make it all work, procuring supplies, and learning the market can be even more challenging during a pandemic.
For Kristen Johnson, founder of Wise Marketing Strategy, starting a new business was a time of ups and downs. She was laid off from her job as the managing director of marketing at a business school in Massachusetts and had to figure out how to launch her business and still care for her family.
“It was a little hectic. On top of transitioning into owning my own business, I watched my son, [who was] 2.5 years old at the time, because my husband and I didn’t want to put him back in daycare during the pandemic,” she notes. “My lowest points were in the first few months of launching, wondering if my business idea would be viable.” Fortunately, it was, and Johnson now has a steady clientele.
It can also be difficult to leave the job security of a full-time employment position and find customers. Many entrepreneurs work around the clock when their business first starts and have a hard time balancing life and business needs. But the high points and the ability to pursue something you’re passionate about make it worthwhile. “Just because we are parents doesn’t mean we stop dreaming or stop chasing our goals,” notes Graham.
Managing Family While Launching a Business
Family time can be rare when starting a business. Some moms combine both ventures to help maintain balance. Beckman says that she makes her business a family affair.
“I try to get my kids interested in my process. When we were on vacation this summer in Maine, I had my son help me set up photoshoots with the jewelry and tried to make him feel like he was the director,” Beckman states.
Graham and her husband, also an entrepreneur who worked from home pre-pandemic, alternated schedules so they are able to care for their daughter and even allow Graham time for herself. “You can be a good mom and a loving spouse, all while also being a goal-oriented, successful entrepreneur,” she says.
Other moms say finding pockets of time is key. Early in the morning or late at night when the kids are asleep are both great times for calls and getting work done. If the children are back at school, their absence can provide uninterrupted work time, and give parents the ability to focus on them and enjoy that time when they get home.
Experience is a Great Teacher
Despite all of the difficulties and challenges that can come with launching a business, especially during a pandemic, small business owners say it’s worth it.
With the right factors in place, a small business can be an ideal enterprise for parents. Having the flexibility to arrange your schedule around attending your child’s play or dealing with household needs is a key perk of being the boss. And of course, receiving payment for something you enjoy doing can be extremely rewarding.
Sadie Higgins, founder and CEO of Gleam
— Sadie Higgins, founder and CEO of Gleam
Small business owners say it can take years before the business becomes profitable so saving money before launching is key. Though not always possible, especially when an unexpected situation like a pandemic hits, having that financial cushion can remove some of the stress of launching.
Business owners also recommend doing something that you love. Your passion will keep you going through the many long and tiring hours of work. Search for a strong support system, such as family, friends, and other business owners, to help you through challenging times. That support can be the difference between pressing forward or giving up at times.
Above all, experts say to figure out what you want to do, make a plan, and go for it.
“Small businesses are the bread and butter of the American Dream. Small business owners are passionate about what they do, and they have the eye and ear for the products and services they’re selling. They are true experts in their field,” adds Sadie Higgins, founder and CEO of Gleam.
What This Means For You
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