Entrepreneurs are launching new businesses amid ongoing pandemic

BOSTON — The economy has taken a real hit over the past year, but that doesn’t seem to be stopping American ingenuity.

The number of people starting businesses went up by 27% in 2020 according to the US Census Bureau.

Emily O’Brien didn’t expect to open a business in December, but the 24-year-old lost her job at a restaurant.

“I was left with this idea of what if I started making stuff from home,” said O'Brien. A makeshift delivery operation morphed in the Sweet & Sage Patisserie in Chestnut Hill.

“I always wanted to have my own place. I just didn’t think it would come so soon,” added O'Brien.

Babson College Professor Andrew Zacharakis isn’t surprised that more people launched businesses this past year. “Maybe you’ve lost your job so now you’re looking for something to do.

People also have more time on their hands as they’re stuck at home.

Zacharakis says many iconic companies came to be during tough economic times. “When you look at the history of recessions, way back to the 1800′s, General Electric and IBM were started. Through the Great Depression with Disney and Revlon, to more recently, with Airbnb and Warby Parker in the 2008 Great Recession.”

Brian Jacobs and Trish Del Rosario opened JP Lock and Security in 2020. “People thought we were crazy,” said Jacobs.

They say help from community groups like the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation was key to their success. They could answer questions and suggest ways to find grant money.

Still, creating a storefront was a big leap for them. “It was nerve-wracking because we kept thing, what are we doing, spending all of this money to open something in the middle of all this,” added Del Rosario.

Both JP Lock and Security and Sweet & Sage are looking to grown and add workers eventually. That could be part of a larger trend in which small businesses help ease the unemployment problem.

“Obviously it can be a starting point of hiring people who have been laid off and we’re looking for that next opportunity,” explained Zacharakis.

Even in good times, launching a business is risky. The overall survival rate for start-ups is about 50% after five years.

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