New businesses boom amid COVID-19 pandemic
SALISBURY, Md. – 2020 was a year to remember, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe. But for some entrepreneurs, it was a chance to follow their dreams. In fact, 21 of Maryland’s 23 counties saw an increase in new business applications in 2020. Just in Wicomico County, there were 211 more new business applications in 2020 than in 2019. “In the midst of a horrible pandemic of historical proportions, an economy that was on the verge of collapse – we saw opportunities there,” says President and CEO of the Salisbury Area of Chamber of Commerce Bill Chambers.
Some local new business owners say that just like everyone else, they were juggling life’s responsibilities while navigating COVID-19. Owner of Lashes By Redd Renita Tyler says she was juggling being a mom, and dealing with the recent death of a loved one – all while incubating an idea for a business. “Some days I wanted to do it. Some days I didn’t, and eventually I just said I have to do it,'” said Tyler.
Tyler says she was inspired to start her business by the sudden closures of her favorite nail salons. “The pandemic actually inspired me because I couldn’t find any nail places open. That was in March when everything was shut down,” said Tyler. “I went to sleep, and woke up with this vision, and I’m like ‘I have to have these boxes. I have to have it looking like this.'”
Meanwhile, owner of Boujee Bites, Wendell Hitch was also spinning a few plates at once as his business idea was born. “I’m a teacher, so at the time when the pandemic first started, we were working from home,” said Hitch. “I started out just doing chocolate covered strawberries. I did that in honor of my step father who passed away a couple years ago. I did that on the anniversary of his death, in remembrance of him. From there it just took off.”
Hitch calls the last year and the response from customers overwhelming, but in a positive way. He says having never owned a business before, he had to quickly teach himself how to be a business owner. “I had to get used to making time for everything. At the time it was a lot easier to take more orders because I was working from home,” said Hitch. “As things got more hands on and needing to be online a lot more, it got a lot harder for me to balance teaching and trying to take orders.”
But for Hitch, his new business has become not only one of his passions, but a huge help in these difficult times. “It’s also another stream of income for me and my family, and it’s definitely helped out a lot as far as being able to save money or pay off any debts that I have,” said Hitch.
Hitch and Tyler are just two examples of business owners that are relying on their own two hands to keep customers happy, all while operating from home. That’s something that Chambers says many other business owners will start to look toward as they start their endeavor. Chambers says the era of opening up a brick and mortar store is being forever changed in the landscape of social media. “The model has changed. In the past, you felt like you needed four walls, if not, a store front. Now entrepreneurs can begin virtually with their virtual office, or their home office,” said Chambers. “I think operating a virtual business now expands your reach geographically. You can do it much more efficiently with less employees.”
With that in mind, Hitch has this advice for anyone hoping to become an entrepreneur. “Make small goals to accomplish, and once you’ve obtained those small goals, make bigger goals. Also seek financial advice. Go to the Small Business Administration, or take courses if you can,” said Hitch. “Don’t be afraid to accomplish your goals and allow your dreams to lead you. Make those dreams come true. Don’t let anything stop you.”
As for Tyler, she has the same encouragement for anyone with a plan and a dream. “No matter what has taken place, no matter what you have been through, follow your dreams. Do what you want to do,” said Tyler. “We’re gonna keep it going. We’ll see if I can make this a million dollar business or something,” said Tyler.