Starting a business – during a pandemic

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Most important qualities when starting a business during a pandemic

In April 2021, conducted a survey of new business owners to learn the qualities they named as most important when starting a business during a pandemic. The top 10 are:

1. Creativity

2. Critical thinking

3. Good communication

4. Flexibility

5. Industry knowledge

6. Emotional intelligence

7. Problem solving

8. Passion

9. Eagerness to learn

10. Leadership


Reasons for starting a business during the pandemic

32.9%: Respondents already were planning to launch a business before the pandemic.

25.6%: Recognized a business opportunity that was a result of the pandemic.

13%: Recognized a business opportunity unrelated to the pandemic.

7.2%: This was a side business before the pandemic but is now the respondent’s job due to being furloughed or laid-off because of the pandemic.

6.8%: Respondent was furloughed or laid off unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic and needed a new source of income.

5.8%: This was respondent’s side business before the pandemic but is now the job in a change unrelated to the pandemic.


Across the country, more than 200,000 mostly small businesses closed in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While businesses were lost, the surprising news from the Census Bureau is that 4.4 million businesses were created in the U.S. during 2020.

This was the highest total increase on record and a 24.3% increase from 2019. It also was 51% higher than the 2010-2019 average.

The increase held steady through 2021, with notably a half million new businesses launched in January 2021 alone. About one-third of applications are considered “high-propensity applications,” or those with a high likelihood of turning into a business with payroll.

A real-time survey of business applications conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau offers encouraging results: The increase in business shutdowns combined with changes in consumer preferences created gaps for new entrants to fill, resulting in a strong resurgence of new businesses.

In Iowa, 22,240 new business applications were received in 2019. In 2020 the number of new business applications increased to 24,240 marking a 9% increase between the two years.

Braiding a community need

Unique Jimerson opened her Dubuque hair braiding salon, Strategic Techniques Braid Studio, in June 2021. She has a lifetime of experience, having started at age 9 braiding the hair of the boys on her Chicago neighborhood block.

“Opening a new business during the pandemic wasn’t so much as scary for me but another way of proving to myself and my children that I have great ideas,” Jimerson said. “I’m courageous, I have faith. I couldn’t let the pandemic be a damper in my life. I’ve been through way worse things personally.”

She was given the push to open her shop because so many people asked where she got her exotic hair braids she proudly wears.

“For three years, I asked them if there wasn’t anyone in the Dubuque area that braided hair. They’d complain and say they had to travel to Chicago or Cedar Rapids (Iowa) to get their hair braided. I denied the proposal for about a year and a half, and it kept sitting on my heart and mind heavy because I like helping people and making people happy that helps me a lot personally,” Jimerson said.

After an eight-year break in hairstyling, Jimerson thought she would never enter the hair industry again.

“I’d been retired as a hairstylist and only interested in natural beauty styles including dread locks, braids, twists and crocheted hair.”

“It’s not just about looking good but taking good care of your ethnic hair. I like for my fellow African Americans to understand the riches of our tight coils and natural hair. Society is not the decision maker for us. I like paving that path for them to understand you are beautiful and so is your hair. You don’t need a weave or wig to feel pretty. I braid everyone’s hair I am not limited to my Black community,” Jimerson said.

From the banking perspective

Nick Patrum, DB&T commercial banker team lead, vice president, said that after a period of hesitation, DB&T has witnessed a steady increase in overall loan applications for new businesses during the past 18 months.

“Opening a business is a challenging endeavor that requires considerable planning and skillful execution. Finding the right partners who will represent the various stakeholders in your business is a critical component to your success,” Patrum said.

He added that a bank is one of the key partners that should challenge the business plan assumptions and logic, provide advice, and help with the necessary lending needs.

“Banks look at you and your business from a holistic perspective to meet your financial goals. This includes reviewing cash management strategies and looking at payment solutions to help optimize cash flow,” Patrum said.

The way the ball bounces

Opening a basketball clinic was something Haris Takes had always wanted to do.

When the Dubuque County Basketball Academy opened in March 2020, Takes had no idea the academy would fill a void during the pandemic.

“We had a date in mind and it happened to be right at the start of the 2020 COVID outbreak. We stayed with our plan and adapted to COVID restrictions along the way.”

“Since so many kids were cooped up at home and didn’t have much to do at the peak of the pandemic, our rosters were full and we were filling a void that was missing during the pandemic,” said Takes, owner, program director and coach at DCBA.

More than 150 kids and families participate in the program in which eight or nine tournaments are played per season. The team practices at least once a week in addition to a weekly skills/conditioning session. Travel to locations to play is no more than a three hour drive throughout the Midwest.

The academy offers something for just about every basketball player from grades kindergarten through 12, boy and girls, regardless of skill level.

“Dubuque County Basketball Academy is a year-round basketball club focused on developing the needed mental and physical skill sets required to be a successful basketball player. DCBA works with kids through their AAU club teams, after school enrichment programs, camps, training sessions, leagues and tournaments for kids around the tri-state area,” Takes said.

Takes said that his realization of “never get too high or too low” was his most important as it prevented him from making rash emotional decisions.

“All of my decisions (good and bad) have led to where we are now and I am happy with where we are as a program. Although, there are several administrative/accounting concepts I have learned since starting that I wish I would have known earlier.”