While the pandemic has taken its toll on the economy and shuttered many businesses, some women turned obstacles into opportunities and started their own companies.
In an interview for "LA Times Today," business reporter Samantha Masunaga joined host Lisa McRee to talk about entrepreneurs who have launched their businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has disproportionately affected women, with significant numbers laid off, leaving their jobs, or reducing work hours.
"A lot of women had jobs in sectors that were hit very hard by the pandemic, like the hospitality sector. On the other hand, women who didn't lose their jobs may have had to quit their jobs because they had to homeschool their kids at home because of the pandemic. They may have had to reduce their hours to help their kids learn from home or take care of other family members. So women were hit hard by this pandemic," said Masunaga.
Even though the pandemic impacted many women, they took their obstacles and turned them into opportunities by launching their businesses.
"This is what economists and experts have said; it's a bit of a silver lining of the pandemic. There has been a wave of new business owners, many of them women, and many of them first-time women business owners who are starting their businesses during this time," added Masunaga.
The businesses that came out of the pandemic were from different fields. One of the women Masunaga says she met was a woman named Keisha Walsh from Alameda, California.
"She worked for the city for years, and during the pandemic, she decided to start an interior design business, which was something she always wanted to do. She went to school for it, and life sort of derailed her hopes of starting her own business in interior design. A friend of hers said she had a project she'd like Keisha to do that unfolded into several projects from friends and family. And now she has quit her job with the city of Alameda and is going to be doing her interior design business full-time and giving it a go," said Masunaga.
Another woman Masunaga met had recently graduated from law school and was struggling to find a job.
"I met Alexis Stanfill; she graduated from law school in December, a lot of the courthouses were closed, and something she had always been interested in doing was starting a business in the equestrian industry. She rides horses herself; she knew that horse riding pants were really expensive. It could be $150 or $200, which is on the low end. And she knew that those pants could be uncomfortable. And so she, her mother, and her friends started Equestrian Wear, that's based in Murrieta, California, and their business has taken off. They sold, I think, nearly 4,000 pants in six months. They've expanded their line to jewelry, belts and sun shirts, and she loves being her own boss," Masunaga said.
Esmeralda from San Diego started her pastries and bread business, Clementina's Sweets, in 2019 as a passion project for weekends and off-hours.
"Esmeralda loves to bake, but during her day job, she is a property administrator and, over the last year and a half, she's been working more on her business. And she had loved ones who passed away. And that convinced her that this is something she should be doing full-time. So she's actually gone part-time at her current job and is looking to expand her bakery business," Masunaga said.
According to Masunaga, many women who run entrepreneurship groups on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook have reported scores of new members, many of whom are first-time business owners.
"One group had about 1,000 members in November 2019; today, they have 21,000, and many of those are first-time women entrepreneurs. Another group started at the beginning of this year. Around then, they had about 880 members, and as of August, they had nearly 45,000 members. So it shows there's a network out there looking for other women entrepreneurs to connect to and get advice from," Masunaga said.
A March survey conducted by Gusto and the National Assn. of Women Business Owners found that nearly half of the women who started new businesses during the pandemic were women of color.
"A lot of the new women business owners are women of color. It's up a lot from past years, and that is due to some factors. It can be a passion project they have wanted to do for a long time. On the other hand, it can also be for financial necessity; the pandemic disproportionately affected women of color. And a study from the National Association of Women Business Owners found that a lot of the women of color who had decided to start their businesses are doing so for financial necessity because they're worried about their financial situation or they lost their jobs," added Masunaga.
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