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Single mother fast tracks lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur after losing her job in the pandemic

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Posted at 7:51 AM, Oct 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-23 18:34:19-04

CLEVELAND — Times are tough, but so are the people of Northeast Ohio like A.J. Francis who as a single mother opened up her own business after she lost her job at the onset of the pandemic.

"I was raised to be a survivor," she said.

Back in March, when the stay-at-home order took effect in Ohio, Francis lost her job as a home health care aid when her company closed with one day notice. Francis is among the quarter of U.S. adults who say they or someone in their household has been laid off or lost a job because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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"When it got to the point of whether I was going to pay the bills or buy groceries, then I knew I had to do something," she said.

When times got tough, this single mom got tougher and turned to something she had up her sleeve.

"So, I knew it was either now or never," she said.

Francis became an entrepreneur by fast-tracking a lifelong dream of opening her own online boutique.

"I got my business license last year," she explained.

She said it was terrifying at first, but she knew it was the right time to take the leap of faith.

"I had to invest in myself and take a chance, and so far I'm pleased with the results," said Francis.

Her online boutique is called Eloquently B.L.A.C. She says B.L.A.C stands for "believe love always conquers."

She works from home and dipped into her savings to buy the equipment she needed to start making her own shirts, earrings, and more.

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A.J. Francis.

The shirts can be custom ordered, but she also has her own line with fun, meaningful and inspirational sayings, like: "Quarantine Queen", "Melanin Goddess", and "Thick Hips and Luscious Lips."

She says her Juneteenth shirt is her favorite, and that personal independence is one of the blessings she's gained by making this creative career leap.

"I think she's pretty cool," said her 15-year-old son Macker. "She does a lot for me."

Along with her passion and faith, her determination to provide for her son is what motivates Francis.

"I want him to see that he can do anything he sets his mind to," she said. "I want him to know his dreams can come true. You don't always have to struggle. You can be whatever you want to be, and you can see your mom living her dreams, then you can live yours, too."

She isn't alone. This year has been a record year for new business filings in Ohio.

According to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office, there were 18,659 new businesses in August, and new business filings were up 72.5% from August 2019.

The secretary of state's office says it's a direct result of pandemic and people pivoting into new opportunities during these difficult economic times.

This story is part of The Rebound: Northeast Ohio, News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:

Getting Back to Work - Learn about the latest job openings, how to file for benefits and succeed in the job market.

Making Ends Meet - Find help on topics from rent to food to new belt-tightening techniques.

Managing the Stress - Feeling isolated or frustrated? Learn ways to connect with people virtually, get counseling or manage your stress.

Doing What's Right - Keep track of the way people are spending your tax dollars and treating your community.