Julie Campbell had to rethink her new wallpaper business before she could sell her first sheet.

Campbell launched Pasted Paper in February, but soon after, the coronavirus forced the cancellation of the trade shows where she expected to introduce her wallpaper to prospective retail customers. Suddenly, the $30,000 she’d invested in creating the wallpaper was at risk, dependent on her transforming the company to sell directly to consumers.

To save Pasted Paper, Campbell learned online selling and marketing — skills not immediately in her wheelhouse.

“I had so much inventory and I needed to sell it. I was forced to figure this out,” Campbell says.

A recession amid a pandemic may seem like the worst time to start a business. Despite millions of loans and grants from federal and state governments, it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of companies have already failed since the virus outbreak began.

Yet, from people like Campbell, who’d invested too much money to turn back, to others who lost their jobs and saw starting their own company as the best path forward, thousands of Americans have opted to take the plunge. A few have even folded one business and quickly launched another better suited for the “new normal” of the pandemic.

Owners of all these fledgling companies face a tough road as they try to bring in customers and thrive. While nearly 80% of startup companies had survived their first year in 2019, according to research by the Kauffman Foundation, those businesses had the benefit of launching in a strong economy.

Prosperity is tougher in a downturn — consumers and businesses spend less and new ventures tend to have large startup costs and low revenue. U.S. gross domestic product plunged by nearly a third from April through July, and there are still more than 13 million people unemployed.

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Slightly over one million companies that have employees were launched in 2018 while 925,000 closed, according to the latest available data from the Labor Department.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, interest in starting a business has picked up as parts of the U.S economy reopened. The number of applications for business tax identification numbers was down more than a third at the end of March compared to year-earlier levels; in the week ended Sept. 5, the most recent data available, they were up 93.6%. The applications don’t necessarily mean businesses were launched, but the numbers do show that despite the virus’s grip on the economy, people were considering starting companies.

Unemployed people needing a source of income likely accounted for some of those applications, says Dane Stangler, a researcher at the think tank Bipartisan Policy Center. But he also says owners who closed their businesses permanently early in the pandemic might be starting up again with a different entity.

Yavonne Sarber knew her Sugar Whisky Sis restaurant in Covington, Kentucky, wouldn’t survive a government-ordered shutdown. So, she closed it for good and four weeks later opened an entirely new restaurant on the site, one focused on takeout and delivery.

“We couldn’t sit still — …read more

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