SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) – The middle of a pandemic doesn’t seem like the best time to try to start a business, yet more and more entrepreneurs are doing just that. They’re leaving their long-time jobs for new opportunities to make more money, find a dream job or simply gain more freedom and flexibility.
Rebecca Collett made the decision to start her own public relations and videography business in Summerville during the pandemic. She says the last two years have been a wake-up call for how important it is to have flexibility at work, especially given the disruption COVID-19 has had on schools.
“Women have so much to offer, especially moms and we shouldn’t be marginalized and cut out of the workforce because we have children to take care of,” Collett said. “You can be a great mom and take care of your children and still contribute to the workforce and that’s what owning my own business has been about.”
Flexibility and the ability to work from home is becoming a more and more desired perk of any job. Collett says she believes there’s a shift in business happening right now that’s creating opportunities for ambitious entrepreneurs.
“I think companies realized they had to change the way they were doing business. Some of the roles that I have secured for myself and for my business were actual positions within companies that now they just contracted out to me,” Collett said. “It is so important that to me that I have the flexibility of working, using my skills set, using my degree and all of my experience but I can still do drop off and pick up with my kids.”
This “great reshuffling” of priorities is leading more people into the workforce, just not back into traditional jobs. Rita Berry, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce in the Summerville area says despite having more people employed than before the pandemic, businesses across almost all sectors are still struggling to get fully staffed.
“It’s not that people are sitting home collecting unemployment,” Berry said. “A lot of people are taking this opportunity to either become entrepreneurs, to work remotely. In addition to that, there’s also been an increase in retirees, a lot of the baby boomers are retiring. And at a much larger pace than they were pre-COVID-19.”
Data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the number of people quitting their jobs hit a 20 year high in 2021. Despite the number of people quitting their jobs, there were more than 5,000 more people in the workforce in 2021 than in 2019 for the Charleston Metro Area. At the same time, the number of new businesses applications has skyrocketed 40 percent.
“Where there’s change, there’s opportunity,” Berry said. “So we’re seeing people who have, perhaps considered doing something on their own, taking this opportunity to reconsider their traditional work schedule, their work environment and take this opportunity to become an entrepreneur and just start their own business.”
The sectors in the economy bleeding the most workers are professional services and hospitality. Berry says businesses can shore up retention and even attract new employees by increasing wages, reducing education requirements and offering sign-on bonuses.
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