Is the recession growing MN entrepreneurs?

Nothing like a recession to get you thinking about being your own boss.

If that sounds odd, we have anecdotal evidence that’s happening now and pretty solid data from that last recession that downturns bring out (force out?) our inner entrepreneur.

Crystal Pollard of Richfield was pregnant and looking for baby clothes three years ago when she got the idea of selling “gently used” maternity and newborn-to-nine-month-old gear. She launched Bellies to Babies in November, weeks after the stock market plummeted. Pollard, a source in our Public Insight Network, told us:

…Unable to get a small business loan from any bank, my fiance and I decided to hold sales out of our garage on weekends last summer. Pretty soon we had people piling in from all over the state and western WI just from ads on Craigslist.

This showed us how much this kind of store was needed. And really gave us the kick we needed to find a different location for a permanent store. we finally got a small personal line of credit through our bank, and started the store on a very tight shoestring budget.

The recession, she added, “plays a huge part in my business. Used clothing sales are up as much as 50% at some stores because of this.”

UPDATE: Pollard checked in with us today to say they’ve also launched a special occasion dress rental business that’s growing rapidly…”women love the fact they can rent one for a couple days for only $35 and save their money. I’m sure the recession is playing a huge part in this.”

State surveys from the last downturn show us what we’re seeing now isn’t a fluke. State officials figured Minnesota workers involved in mass layoffs started more than 400 businesses, or more than three percent of all business start-ups in 2001. About 1,500 workers were weighing a new business venture.


With family and friends struggling in the recession, Angelique Montag of Plymouth recently teamed up with her mother and aunt to start an online business selling handmade purses and other goods using recycled items.

Montag, another Public Insight source, wrote:

I am a hobby crafter, my aunt has a degree in Art and my mother has been a seamstress and crafter most of her 75 years….My mother and aunt have sold stuff at craft shows and the senior center back in Wisconsin for years.

After two years of saying, I’m sorry, but my aunt lives in Wisconsin and doesn’t have a store or website to sell you one, I decided to buy a few from her to sell to my friends who had asked for them.

When finances worsened this year for all of us, I bought a few more purses from her and set up a website, made some business cards, and hand them out to people when they ask about my purse.

There are downsides, obviously.

Failure is always a possibility. As an entrepreneur, you’re really putting yourself out there in ways you didn’t when you worked for a big employer.

Pollard, for instance, says: “At this time, we can’t afford to purchase health insurance through the business. I have insurance through state coverage, we are still waiting on the state to get back to us about our sons’ coverage, and my fiance has very basic coverage through his work.”

Montag has been trying to maintain the business while also keeping her job as a legal secretary because the craft projects don’t pay the bills yet. The overall stress, “is complicating a nerve problem I have with my arm, which makes it difficult and painful to continue crafting.

A state report called the unemployed a potential source of entrepreneurial energy, but also cautioned that, “Minnesota’s relatively low business start-up rate clearly suggests that Minnesota needs to support a culture that encourages and values entrepreneurship.”


If you’re trying to start a Minnesota business in this recession, please drop a line and let us know how things are going.

Check out the map for what our people in our Public Insight Network are telling us about their job situation.

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