Suffice it to say that COVID-19 and its many side effects have brought a number of challenges and headaches to our region, especially its business community. That list has included shutdowns, endless restrictions on what business can be conducted and when, a workforce crisis, supply-chain issues, inflation, uncertainty, unease … the list goes on.
There are a few positives in there, obviously, including innovation born of necessity, newfound resilience, and profound changes in how work is conducted — and where.
And there’s something else. As the story on page 6 reveals, and others stories have hinted at over the course of the past 18 months or so, COVID has inspired a slew of new stories of entrepreneurship in the Valley, which is intriguing and refreshing, on a number of levels.
As Samalid Hogan, the soon to be former executive director of the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center’s regional office, told us, the pandemic was a time when many people did some pausing and reflecting — in part because they had the time to do so.
And while doing that, they figured out that what they were doing wasn’t what they really wanted to be doing. What they wanted to do was own their own business. In many cases, this was a long-held dream accelerated by COVID. For others, it was something that came about by circumstance.
In any case, when they came to a crossroads, they took the one whereby they put their name on the door.
Over the course of the past 18 months or so, individuals, husband-and-wife teams, and other types of partnerships have created new beer labels, a wine-distribution venture, new retail outlets, a Latino marketing agency, a business offering personalized hikes in the Berkshires, and countless others.
These ventures have brought new life to tired real estate in some cases, and some new excitement in communities up and down the Valley, at a time when it was sorely needed.
These entrepreneurs have discovered what countless others learned long ago, and what they probably already knew themselves — that owning your own business, while usually a dream worth pursuing, isn’t easy.
It’s been described by those who have lived that life as a roller-coaster ride, with ups and downs, and usually more of the latter than the former. There are sleepless nights, and some time spent wondering if it was a good idea to leave a steady paycheck for the great unknown.
But for many who take this route, there is the ultimate conclusion that, yes, it was a good idea. It was worth it to take those risks. It was a life-changing decision.
Many people are now experiencing these emotions, and COVID had something to do with it. They may have lost the job they had. They may have decided the job they had simply wasn’t something they wanted to do anymore. They may have found the time and energy they never had to finally turn a dream into reality.
Whatever the reason, it has happened, and it’s still happening, as those monthly totals of people becoming part of the Great Resignation make clear.
There haven’t been many good things to come from the pandemic and its many, many side effects, but this is clearly one of them. v