Starting a Small Business During a Global Pandemic

by Vivian Liebenson
Grand Opening Cartoon - Hooray I Run My Own Business

Small business owner laying on the floor in distress because they own their own business

Who starts a small business in the middle of a global pandemic?

Ahem! Um, well… I did.

Anyone who knows me probably wouldn’t consider me a risk-taker. I stayed at my last job for 15 years before finally being laid off. I ask everyone around me for advice before making the smallest move – should I order the large or the small box of baking soda from Amazon?

But, there’s the point. Small things. I have a hard time making decisions about the everyday, mundane, trivialities in life where the worst that can go wrong is I’ve wasted a few dollars. It takes me three hours to go grocery shopping (when there is no pandemic, that is) because I have to weigh the pros and cons between two cans of beans that differ in price by 10 cents.

Maybe it’s because I was raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression. When my mother would come home from grocery shopping she would go through the receipt with a fine-tooth comb. If she was over-charged by even a nickel, she would go marching back to the store and demand the difference. As you can see, that could shape a person’s grocery shopping habits, at least.

Small decisions may be tough, but the big ones are easy.

However, when it comes to big, important, life-changing decisions, I am a take-charge, gut-reaction, jump-in-with-both-feet, kind of gal. No idea what to do after college? Move to Boston on a whim with no job or money. Suddenly decide to become a graphic designer? Buy a computer, quit your job, enroll in a design program and hope for the best. Get married after dating someone for two months? Sure! What’s the worst that could happen? (Spoiler alert – these all turned out to be excellent decisions.) 

So it really isn’t out of character that I started a graphic design and web design business in the middle of a quarantine. (By the way, my oddly-wired brain considers design decisions as super-important, so no waffling there.)

I had been laid off from my job in early November 2019. I spent most of November looking for affordable health insurance for my family. Then it was the holiday season and no one was really hiring. But, by early February my job search was gaining momentum – employers were requesting interviews and headhunters starting contacting me. Then BOOM! Everything stopped. We all hunkered down inside, millions of other people lost their jobs, and some businesses closed for good.

But a funny thing happened. Employers stopped responding to my applications, but I got four requests for freelance graphic design work. That was good enough for me. One month later I launched my business.

So Why Am I Telling You This?

Now that my first few projects that fell into my lap are complete, I need to hustle to make this business a success. I’m reading and learning everything I can about running a small business, marketing, sales, you name it. Right now it’s still new and exciting. We can still afford groceries (not that I’m the one shopping for them!). But, it could get discouraging really easily.

Back in 2013 I received my Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach certification. Kaizen-Muse is a coaching philosophy based around asking small questions and taking small steps. One of the first things we ask our coaching clients when they are stuck is “What has worked in the past?”

I’m asking myself this question daily. It helps me to remember my gutsy decisions I’ve made before and how well they worked out. That’s what will keep me going once the honeymoon phase of owning a small business ends. 

Perhaps this is a small question that could help you as well. Let me know in the comments if you try it.

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