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Diverse Business Owners Industry Updates

They Started a Business During the Pandemic — and They’d Do It Again

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If you have ever seen salmon swimming upstream against a raging river’s currents, you know that it is a perfect metaphor for strength, determination and a will to fight against the odds.

But salmon aren’t the only fighters who refuse to back down against a daunting challenge.

In 2020, the pandemic took a heavy toll on small businesses, with many closing or scaling back. And yet, a survey by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and payroll platform Gusto found a hardy 5% of women business owners chose to “swim” against the current and actually start a business in 2020.

“The unemployment rate hit new highs during the pandemic, jobs that were previously thought to be recession-proof disappeared overnight, and the demands of caring for children and family members caused record numbers of women to leave the labor force altogether,” said Luke Pardue, an economist at Gusto. “For some women, starting a business became the most viable option for employment this last year. Nearly 40% of women that started new businesses during COVID shared that they did so as a direct result of the pandemic.”

What do we know about these brave entrepreneurs? NAWBO and Gusto said its survey of nearly 1,200 women revealed:

  • Nearly half (47%) of businesses started by women in the past year are minority-owned.
  • Just more than half of women (51%) who started their businesses last year are either the sole provider for their household or the primary source of household income.
  • 66% of women that started their businesses last year are sole proprietors. 
  • A stunning 77% of women who started a new business said they’d do it again if given the opportunity. An additional 31% said that they would delay or forgo compensation for one month or more to keep their business afloat, and 23% said they would sell personal property. 

“Women are taking the initiative to drive the recovery and provide for their families and communities.”

“This new crop of women business owners were particularly motivated by a combination of needing more flexible work hours, control over personal finances and job security,” Pardue noted. Specifically:

  • 58% wanted more control over their work schedules.
  • 24% wanted to start a business that they could pass on to their families.
  • 37% were looking to improve their financial opportunities.
  • 19% had lost their jobs.
  • 9% didn’t have any other job opportunities.

For their fledgling businesses to remain viable, more than half of the women surveyed said that improved access to government aid is vital.

“Women are taking the initiative to drive the recovery and provide for their families and communities,” Pardue said. “They are committed to their businesses and to growth. Yet virtually all of them have not been eligible for government aid, most notably the Paycheck Protection Program. By providing them with support [and] by prioritizing they get it, we have an opportunity to turbocharge the recovery and build a more inclusive economy along the way.”

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