Three cheers for natural-born baker Michele MacPherson. She’s the Parker resident profiled in The Gazette this week who started a home business — in the face of COVID.
Baking pies, cookies, cakes and the like with her mom went from hobby to passion during MacPherson’s teen years. By the time she was grown, with a career of her own and married, she was sharing her baked goods with friends, colleagues and her husband’s co-workers, as well.
Then came COVID and last spring’s lockdown, and MacPherson suddenly had nowhere to go to share her love of baking. So, she started marketing and selling her delectable handiwork from home. On Nov. 1, she launched Ahh Crumb Bakery.
Let’s extend congrats to MacPherson and wish her all the best — and let’s applaud the thousands of other Coloradans who have followed suit with their entrepreneurial dreams despite a pandemic.
MacPherson is in fact among some 38,000 Coloradans who filed new business licenses throughout 2020’s third quarter, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office Quarterly Business and Economic Indicators report. Filings were 40% higher than the previous quarter; it was in fact the largest spike recorded since 2007. At least 70% of those new businesses are small, limited liability companies, according to the filings from the Secretary of State's Office.
Similar trends are afoot in neighboring states. Nebraska has experienced a 50% quarterly jump and Kansas an increase of 32%. Nationally, there has been an increase of 31.8% in new business filings, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Rounding out the good news — and consistent with historic economic cycles — The Gazette reports that the rebound in new business filings is being accompanied by a surge in hiring.
What’s behind it all? Maybe we can attribute at least some of the momentum to restless ingenuity, to sheer human pluck when the chips are down and perhaps to a willingness to roll the dice. Plenty of Coloradans and other Americans have felt the ill effects firsthand of soaring unemployment or suddenly failing small businesses in some economic sectors amid COVID’s ripple effects. Yet, rent and mortgages still have to be paid; families still have to be fed, so creativity kicks into high gear among household breadwinners.
Chris Brown, director of policy and research at the Common Sense Institute, a Denver-based business policy think tank, called it, “truly a phenomenon.”
The University of Colorado’s Brian Lewandowski offered further insight.
“We know that during recessions people tend entrepreneurial, maybe because they are forced to be as they lose their job, so they start their own venture,” Lewandowski said. “Or people just see an opportunity to open a business, or opportunity costs are lower which allows people to pursue their own venture.”
Meaning that, at critical moments, some of the most forward-thinking, most innovative, most entrepreneurial ideas are spawned. In other words, if necessity is the mother of invention, then maybe desperation is its midwife.
Whatever is underlying the boom in startups, it’s heartening to see. We’d like to think it is a tribute to the Colorado spirit. That seems to be the take of Terra LaRock, another COVID-era entrepreneur who spoke to The Gazette.
“We’re all kind of primed that the only constant is change … whether we’re talking about a snowy day turning sunny or someone who loses their job and starts a business. Coloradans are always willing to change.” An Arizona native, LaRock says while living in Colorado, she’s picked up the “Colorado resilience” that has helped push her through tough times.
Her startup is Mindful Mama, a phone app that delivers mindfulness and self-care practices to mothers. It launched in March — just as Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order locking down the state.
Of course, the drastic measures taken by state and local government in 2020 in hopes of stemming the virus also have had a punishing effect on businesses large and small — from big box outlets to mom ‘n’ pop-run bistros. Storefronts have been shuttered, and especially small-scale proprietors’ dreams have been dashed.
For many — employers and employees alike — this year has been economically devastating.
And yet, to see some rise from the wreckage represents a renewal that is uplifting.
As noted in The Gazette’s report, MacPherson put the lockdown — which upended much of the state’s economy — to good use. She used the stay-at-home order to indulge her love of baking and turn it into a business. She now even dreams of becoming a full-time baker.
“For me personally, I would love to transition out of sitting all day at a desk job,” she said. “Someday soon I hope that my dream will become a reality, but until it does, I’ll keep giving it my all.”