Two groups most affected by pandemic shutdowns, women and black Illinois, have been the fastest to turn to small business ownership as a way to recover from the COVID-19 economic downturn.
Women and black Illinois have been hit hardest by job losses during the COVID-19 pandemic, but these are also the two groups that are most quickly becoming their own bosses and owning their own small businesses.
Two established small business owners figured out how to thrive during the pandemic.
Jackie Jackson not only lost business during the pandemic, but his Kilwins ice cream and chocolate store in the heart of downtown Chicago was destroyed during the George Floyd riots.
“Last year we were looted. This made us shut down for about 30 days. When they broke in here, the whole store was contaminated; we couldn’t use anything. It was a general melee, so it was very scary, ”said Jackson, who stayed in his store and handed out chocolates in an attempt to calm the looters.
But the pandemic has also brought opportunities. She has expanded her businesses.
“During the pandemic, we opened our third Kilwin location at Navy Pier. And, the lockdown inspired me to consider different ways to keep myself afloat, ”Jackson said. “I studied trends in the restaurant business, and it gave me the confidence to pivot and do something other than desserts. I am currently in the process of opening a Fat Burger, which is a west coast chain.
Despite many challenges, Illinois small businesses are making a comeback. Illinois has more than 1.6 million small business owners, a growth of 138,000 new entrepreneurs since 2019, according to research from the Illinois Policy Institute.
About 81,700 non-Hispanic blacks in Illinois have gone to work for themselves since the start of the pandemic, the largest increase of any racial group at 124%. Self-employment for women is up 13.4% from pre-pandemic levels and has grown faster than self-employment for men, which is up 7.3%.
White non-Hispanic self-employment increased 2.6% between October 2019 and October 2021, while Hispanic self-employment levels remain largely unchanged from 2019 levels.
Corrine Campbell, owner of Corrine’s Closet in downtown Springfield, Illinois, was not sure her clothing store would survive the pandemic because it did not have foot traffic with state employees working remotely. Like Jackson, she went through the crisis even deeper.
“We have a downtown location and were fortunate to have been able to expand and open a second location in the mall,” said Campbell. “It’s so important to support small businesses. If people are planning to buy something different from what they find in big box stores, small businesses are a great option.
November 27 is Small Business Saturday. The day is especially important in Illinois because small businesses are vital to the state’s economy.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees were responsible for 70% of job growth in Illinois from 2011 to 2019. But even though there are more small businesses, the pandemic has hit some industries harder.
Small businesses in the retail sector have grown 41% since 2019, with around 22,000 new businesses created. But about 87,900 jobs are still missing in the bar, restaurant and food service industry that includes Campbell’s businesses.
In addition, Illinois’ unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 6%, leaving 370,400 workers still jobless.
Small businesses also small payrolls than previously. Small retail businesses have grown 41% since 2019, but the sector has 16,300 fewer jobs than before the pandemic.
The increase in self-employment, entrepreneurial activity and small business ownership in times of economic downturn must be expected. As more and more people find themselves unemployed, self-employment is becoming a way of supporting themselves and their families.
“When interviewing some of my potential team members, I always ask, ‘What are your career goals? What do you want?’ Because I don’t just offer a job, ”Jackson said. “I want to propose a career and most of them, like today, say that they want to open their own business.
“A 21-year-old interviewee said she would like to start her own bakery before the age of 25. I love to hear this. It’s so cool. ”Says Jackson.
Future entrepreneurs need passion, because she said that’s what will get them through pandemics, looting and the hiring crisis.