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Business in 2021: Pandemic gives rise to an explosion of new female entrepreneurs

Since the pandemic many women in Bermuda have started their own small business (File photographs)

Tasha Burt set up bouncy house rental business Burt’s Funcastle after her hours as a caregiver were cut back dramatically during the pandemic.

“I did not want to be dependent on anyone for income,” Ms Burt said.

Terri Mello started painting peg dolls for amusement during the long hours of the second pandemic lockdown, then turned her new hobby into a business called Star Sprinkles.

Takeisha Wales launched online children’s clothing business Child Style a year ago, after desperately trying to find inexpensive play clothes on the island, for her toddler.

In the last two years, the pandemic has ignited an explosion of new female-owned businesses, mostly based online.

Earlier this month, Stephanie Lee, founder of female entrepreneur support organisation WOMB Bermuda, held her first networking event in two years.

Ms Lee said: “There were quite a few new faces; some who said they started their business during the pandemic, found a way to pivot during the pandemic, or went full-time with their business because they were laid off.”

She has also seen a lot of new accounts for female-owned businesses popping up on social media, many of them started by women under 35.

“I think this has a lot to do with how the economy has progressed since the economic crash in 2008,” Ms Lee said. “Jobs and opportunities became scarce then, and it has gotten even worse in the last 12 years.”

She said a lot of women tried everything they could think of to get a job, to no avail.

“So what did we do – create something for ourselves,” she said.

She has also seen more seasoned professionals taking the pandemic as an opportunity to pursue a dream they had for many years, but pushed aside for the sake of security, fear, or societal pressures telling them otherwise.

“It’s truly exciting to see,” Ms Lee said.

Jamillah Lodge, Bermuda Economic and Development Corporation communication and development director, has seen a definite increase in people reaching out for advice, taking their educational courses and applying for financial support.

“We have seen a huge increase in home made products including skin and hair care, natural drinks, baked goods, and forth,” she said. “People are relying on their skills that they may have considered a hobby and turning them into full-time entrepreneurial endeavours. In some cases out of necessity and in other cases because they had time to focus on their passion.”

Ms Lodge said the businesses that survive beyond the pandemic will be the ones willing to pivot.

“It’s also necessary to recognise opportunities when they come, and not be afraid to take the chance at seizing the moment,” she said.

Jenny Smatt, president of Ontru, a company providing business coaching, thought that some of the increase was related to pandemic job loss, or reductions in working hours or salary. But she also thought many people were reconsidering their goals and priorities.

“The pandemic has caused many to reflect on the importance of living life fully and this may include pursuing a dream of starting a business that they may have previously placed on the back burner,” she said.

“For some, the need to be at home to care for children or other at-risk family members has created the need to start a business that enables them to meet these needs while providing revenue in parallel.”

Ms Smatt predicted a continued rise in the creation of small businesses in the coming year, and continued success for female entrepreneurs and business owners.

“I am encouraged by the range of businesses as well and think that we will continue to see creativity on the types of businesses,” Ms Smatt said.

Nadia Laws of PR firm Media Maven said the pandemic has changed so many facets of how we live and work.

“While it has presented challenges for some small business owners, I believe it has also identified gaps and opportunities in the Bermuda marketplace that can be filled by creative entrepreneurs,” Ms Laws said.

Ms Lee thought stability would be the biggest challenge going forward.

“We are already dealing with huge issues with the supply chain that even large businesses are facing,” she said. “These larger businesses can surf since they have a large variety of inventory; many small businesses, retail specifically, bring in a handful of items and have a low-profit margin because of it. If they can’t get items, how are they supposed to earn? Stability also leads to consistency; have no product to sell, can’t open the store, virtual or brick and mortar.”

She said consumers can get frustrated not knowing when they will get their product.

“The lack of employment opportunities hasn't changed,” Ms Lee said. “So if these small businesses go under, what happens to these women and their families?”

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Published December 31, 2021 at 7:48 am (Updated December 31, 2021 at 9:54 am)

Business in 2021: Pandemic gives rise to an explosion of new female entrepreneurs

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