How Women Professionals and Business Owners Pivoted?
April 16, 2021 | Inspiration
The word “pivot” has been used repeatedly in the past year—and with good reason. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment rates hovered around 10.5% and millions were either furloughed or permanently laid off. Unsurprisingly, women were the hardest hit—CNBC reported that women lost more than 12.1 million jobs due to the coronavirus. Although the effects of job loss have been devastating to women across the U.S., for some, it’s been a catalyst to begin their entrepreneurial journey.
Below are stories from three women on how the events of 2020 transformed their professional lives.
Furloughed to Small Business Owner
Hilaria Kwakumey lost her human relations job in the spring of 2020 and decided there was no better time to follow the dream of starting her own business. Kwakumey opened the Boss Hair Salon, a diverse, full-service hair salon in Frederick, MD.
“The pandemic has been a complete wake-up call for everything I thought I knew,” Kwakumey said in the Boss Hair Salon’s official press release. “The pandemic made me realize that as an entrepreneur, I must be ready and adaptable because anything can happen at any moment – even the most unimaginable things.”
Current Events Inspired Action and New Endeavor
After George Floyd’s death in May and subsequent protests, entrepreneurs looked for ways to assist the Black community and address some of the community’s disparities. For example, Asya Bradley and her friend Donald Hawkins spoke about the most effective ways to deal with systematic racism.
With substantial experience in the fintech industry, Bradley and Hawkins believed they could help solve the problem by addressing the financial stability of the Black community. As mentioned in our past blog, “Black business owners are rejected for funding three times the rate of white-owned businesses due to institutional racism and other lending criteria that are inherently discriminatory in nature.”
Bradley and Hawkins’ research discovered the United States only has 19 Black-owned banks collectively holding about $5 billion in assets. Additionally, Bradley and Hawkins concluded that those banks did not meet the community’s needs, especially with a rise in digital and online banking popularity.
In August 2020, Bradley and Hawkins founded First Boulevard. First Boulevard is a fintech startup that aims to address the generational wealth gap for Black Americans. Based in Overland Park, KS, First Boulevard has raised approximately $5M from Barclays, Anthemis, and angel investors, including actress Gabrielle Union and AutoZone CFO Jamere Jackson.
A recent TechCrunch article stated the platform already had 100K people on its waitlist and was expected to launch in the third quarter of 2021.
Pandemic Provided an Opportunity to Reflect on Personal Values
Asya Geller and Talia Friedman had already left their respective full-time jobs when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020. After working at the same company for ten years, Geller and Friedman wanted to decide their next career move. Seeking flexibility and more autonomy over their daily schedule, Geller and Friedman agreed that the public health crisis was the right time to start a business. Originally intended to be a side gig, the venture has now blossomed into a full-fledged startup.
Werkzy, based in Los Angeles and Greenwich, CT, is an online marketplace exclusively connecting small businesses and top talent. The platform launched in November 2020 and two weeks later had 20 jobs and 50 prospective employees registered.
“It feels really good,” Geller said to the Washington Post. “Werkzy would never have existed without the past six months. It’s been an odd kind of blessing that we’ve been able to start something we feel really passionate about.”
Thinking About Starting Your Own Business? Here Are Some Resources
Also, below are past blog posts to provide some inspiration and guidance to start your new endeavor.
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