CLEVELAND — Nearly 200,000 new businesses were created in Ohio in 2021 — 197,010 to be exact — a 15% increase over 2020’s record of 171,073, according to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.
While those numbers are incredible, it's also been an incredibly tough time to operate a brand new business.
Ashley Wynn thought she had a recipe for success before opening her business, Busy Boss Bakery, in November 2020. She started the business as a home-based operation in 2019, then decided to open a brick-and-mortar location in 2020.
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But then, the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to switch up the ingredients.
“Money was a problem. Money was a problem. And I couldn't get the funding or the help and so it didn't happen,” said Wynn. “We needed to do plumbing, and we needed to build walls and knockdown stuff and take other things out, and building codes and, you know, electrical panels and so there was a lot of stuff that was unforeseen, that kind of pushed those plans of opening back.”
Busy Boss Bakery’s brick-and-mortar location on Larchmere Avenue finally opened in July 2021.
“We had a grand opening day and it was packed. People were outside the door trying to come in so it ended up working out well,” said Wynn.
She said there have been ups and downs since then.
“I’ve been in pretty much like a learning stage, learning about being open for the first year and how you can get hit in a lot of different ways,” said Wynn.
Those lessons included normal things entrepreneurs experience, like learning about how weather affects customer foot traffic and sales patterns.
Michael Goldberg, an associate professor in the Department of Design and Innovation at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management, said there are also the things that are pandemic-specific, like the inflation we’re experiencing now.
“Inflation is at a record high. The new CPI came out yesterday showing rising energy prices, rising grocery prices, rising prices of rent, and those are hitting small business owners on every level,” said Goldberg.
Then, there’s the virus itself, which went through Wynn’s entire household in December, forcing her to shut down for the entire month.
“No sales. I actually lost a lot of money because some of the custom cake orders that I had, I had to refund because I'm like, ‘I cannot make this cake. I can't come out the bed.’ And so we definitely got hit that month when we were all out with COVID because we couldn't produce, we couldn’t provide,” said Wynn.
But Wynn isn’t letting all of that get the best of her. She returned in January to re-strategize and introduced new deals and promotions this month to attract customers.
Goldberg said patient and consistent efforts like those are key to making it through.
“I think for small business owners that can stick it out, I’m optimistic about the future,” said Goldberg. “I'm optimistic in what we're seeing in numbers. I think unfortunately what omicron or delta have shown us is that the pandemic is going to be with us for a while, but I do feel like folks are – I mean, there was an economic rebound. People want to buy and eat out and buy baked goods.”
Wynn is holding on for the ride.
“You know, I saw some of the areas that I didn't do so well in last year, and now I'm just like, ‘Alright, I'm ready. Let's go,’” said Wynn. “I believe that everybody, all of the small businesses, got hit. You know, it was something that we were not expecting. No one could have prepared us for it until it came. And so now that we've been able to live through it, we've been able to adjust.”
Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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