Over the last month or so, I’ve engaged in 100 conversations with female entrepreneurs on Instagram. I was expecting the conversations to skew toward established entrepreneurs, but I quickly learned that new businesses, started by women and minorities, are on the rise.
And while many reports show that the pandemic has hit women in business particularly hard, the women I was meeting and networking with had, on the contrary, begun their businesses during the pandemic over the last two to six months.
Digging deeper, I discovered that women are flocking to entrepreneurship because they are motivated by a few key factors, and they remain undeterred by the pandemic.
Ditching corporate life
The key factor motivating women to start businesses is a sweeping realization that corporate culture is not designed to support women’s core values. The majority of women I spoke with indicated their lives prior to the pandemic were run by their corporate career, even during their off hours. Months of decompressing from the stress of their careers, working from home and finding balance in their lives revealed they could not return to corporate life.
Cassandra Bae of Cecilia Rose Consulting was working a very demanding job when the pandemic began. She said that because of her day job, she never would have had the emotional and physical bandwidth to start and sustain a company. At the end of the day, any “free time” she had was spent decompressing.
“One day, with no notice, I had had enough. I quit, effective 6 p.m. the same day. I had no future prospects, but I knew that working for this employer wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I started my company shortly after and I couldn’t be happier with my choices,” Bae said.
While this sentiment was true for the majority of women I spoke with, it was especially true for women who are mothers. The growing demands on mothers for homeschooling and online learning due to the pandemic made returning to an office, or even working office hours remotely from home, an impossible option.
Women are starting second (and even third) businesses
In addition to women leaving the corporate arena, many are starting secondary and tertiary businesses. When businesses were deemed non-essential, many business owners had to pivot quickly to meet the changing requirements and began to say “yes” to the other business ideas that had been percolating for them. The pandemic gave existing entrepreneurs a reason to move forward with ideas they’d shelved for years in order to keep cash flowing.
Salon owner Tonya Fairley knew that even if salons were closed in the middle of a pandemic, women still wanted to take care of themselves. To meet this need, she started her latest business, Strandz Hydro-Curlz, a line of vegan, cruelty-free hair products. It was an idea she’d dreamt about for years but couldn’t execute due to the time constraints of running three different storefronts.
When her salon business was deemed “non-essential” and closed for fourth months, she decided it was the perfect time to launch the new branch.
“When I told my clients the idea for Strandz Hydro-Curlz, their support was overwhelming. Sales have increased every month since opening by 33 to 37 percent,” Fairley said.
The pandemic has given many existing entrepreneurs the opportunity to expand into additional business ventures. While starting a new brand may have been impossible for many at the start of this year, the space the pandemic created was the opportunity to build the foundation for secondary and tertiary arms. Now that these business owners have used time during the pandemic to work on the foundational work building these additional businesses, they’re able to handle the day-to-day operations of these new ones, plus their primary businesses.
It’s time to take control
The final motivating factor I witnessed with women who have started businesses during the pandemic is their ability to take ownership and control of their destiny. During the month of April, women accounted for 55 percent of the 20.5 million jobs lost. Women are realizing more and more how the perception of stability and security in corporate jobs is an illusion.
Brooke Marston, co-founder of Cecilia Rose Consulting (and Cassandra Bae’s business partner), had worked in the corporate world for many years and was laid off twice during two of the worst economies.
“It made me realize I can’t rely on a job to be there for me. It’s better if I can take care of myself and have control of the money coming in, and the plan of attack. And if a recession hits, my life doesn’t stop, my finances don’t stop and I’m not at a loss because someone decided they need to cut back to cover their losses. At the end of the day, to most major corporations, you’re always expendable. But when you have your own business, you’re never expendable,” Marston said.
There was already a noticeable shift occurring for women in the workplace, even before the pandemic. Women were moving toward an increased sense of self-responsibility in their careers and the pandemic only added fuel to this fire. The many entrepreneurs I spoke with expressed the need to have the power to create and increase their income without being held back by an employer, not to mention embracing the security that comes from being totally in charge of their own results.
While a significant number of businesses have faced closures this year, many entrepreneurs (both new and existing) have used the pandemic as an opportunity to light up their dreams and accelerate their business plans. Female entrepreneurs across the country have looked at the pandemic as the opportunity they needed to leave their corporate positions and take control of their futures.
If you’ve been thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, now is the perfect time to start. This trend toward embracing your own destiny through business ownership is a trend I predict will continue into 2021, as more and more women (and men) realize the possibilities they have access to in our changing business landscape.