The new now
18 Mar 2021
This week: As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, who’s thriving? Who’s not? And who are the new entrepreneurs?
THANK U, NEXT
2008’s Great Recession gave birth to Airbnb, Uber, and Venmo – setting the stage for the gig economy.
2020’s public health catastrophe has left untold devastation in its wake, but it has also sparked a “startup boom” of its own. (Mo’ problems, mo’ solutions).
• It’s been an utter shitstorm, but as it turns out, perhaps a perfect one to turn side hustlers into the real deal. “The circumstances of the pandemic – spare time, the use of new technologies, and confinement to home – appear to have created a catalyzing environment,” reported The Financial Times. Also, nothing like a plague to reset priorities. “Starting a business has been a way to take back a measure of control – and provide a sense of hope,” noted the BBC.
• “The coronavirus crisis may have accomplished something that a decade of economic growth could not: it spurred a boom in U.S. entrepreneurship,” reported The New York Times. Since last March, over 4 million new businesses have been created in the U.S. – the biggest increase on record. Not to be outdone, the UK, France, Germany and Japan have also seen significant, double-digit gains in companies being formed.
• So which businesses might be remembered as dinosaurs from the COVID-era? (Ahem, Quibi). As we round the Q1 bend of 2021, vaccinations are ramping up, and tech stocks are… falling. Peloton and Zoom are among the peak pandemic heavyweights that are down over 20% since February. Are we going to take a blessed break from our screens? Even the CEO of a VC-funded virtual events platform admitted: “The more intimate and personal an event, the better it probably is as an in-person affair.”
It still remains to be seen which hypebeasts of the pando turn out to be just a flash in the pan. One thing is certain though: there’s more competition out there than ever before. How will that shape the next economy?
I’M A HUSTLER, BABY
So who are some of these young guns? Here’s how a few fledgling businesses are doing, one year out.
• Back in July, we spotlighted Telsha Anderson’s fresh NYC boutique t.a. We’re pleased to report she’s thriving, while continuing to focus on sourcing Black-owned fashion. “I make it a point to put Black brands at the forefront of my store. I’ll give them the whole wall,” she said. When the world totally reopens? She can’t wait to meet other concept boutique owners who have paved the way.
• Hugo Barbers opened a London outpost last 4th of July. Their booming three-month stint proved to owner Chris Hugo – who is currently searching for more long-term digs – that they were getting things right. In terms of COVID’s (not obvious) impact on the hair industry? Once you go freelance, you’ll never go back. “So many stylists got used to the freedom of lockdown,” he said. “We’re offering a space to accommodate that.”
• Atlanta food entrepreneur Keitra Bates was just getting her shared commercial kitchen, Marddy’s, off the ground last spring. She’s now got the keys to a second location, which she credits to tapping into a community of other like-minded entrepreneurs. “This whole period from the spring  to now has made people a lot more collaborative and a lot more creative with approaching business,” she told NPR.
The inspiration behind Marddy’s? Keitra, unable to afford the higher rent on her pizzeria in a gentrifying area of Atlanta, noticed other Black-owned food owners being priced out too. She considers them “hidden entrepreneurs.”
It all begs the question: who exactly gets to be (called) an entrepreneur? It’s a weighted word, as past data shows that it’s the people with bigger bank accounts who are disproportionately more likely to start a new venture.
As the stats shake out on the founders behind this surge of brand-new businesses, we know who we hope to see. Not another Technnoking.
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.