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COVID-19 pandemic drives more Grand Strand residents to become entrepreneurs

Jerzey Curl Salon

Kristina Rose, owner of Jerzey Curl Salon inside Sola Salon of Myrtle Beach, trims Vincent Pawlak's hair during a recent visit. Rose is one of dozens of Myrtle Beach residents who started their own business recently amid changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was May 31 and Kristina Rose, a hairdresser at a salon at Coastal Grand Mall, had been out of work for nine weeks. She had to do something — and fast.

Rose had an entrepreneurial side of her since the late 2000s, when she and her mother opened a salon in New Jersey when extra money was tight after the housing market crash.

This time, her mother was the one asking the tough questions when Rose began exploring going into business for herself.

On that late spring day, she leaped — she called her then-boss and told her she was not coming back.

“I was just like, ‘I’m going to do it,’” Rose said, who opened her business Jerzey Curl in SOLA Salon in Myrtle Beach. “It was scary, too. To be in business for myself? There’s only so much I can do in two weeks. Business licenses, ordering product. It can be done.”

Rose is like thousands of others on the Grand Strand who found themselves looking for other options as reductions in force and slow corporate reopening strategies strained personal budgets.

The city of Myrtle Beach has seen a significant increase in business licenses since the pandemic. Inquiries into starting a business are also on the rise, according to the Small Business Development Center at Coastal Carolina University and SCORE Grand Strand, a nonprofit organization that offers free and confidential business mentoring to small business owners along the Grand Strand.

There were 156 business licenses approved in the city of Myrtle Beach for the month of June, a significant increase from 83 and 44 in May and April, respectively. 

“Normally in this area, at this time of year, this is our slow time,” said Janet Graham, area manager of the Small Business Development Center.

Graham said summer is the slow time because anyone who is going to have a business is already in business.

Graham expects to see more inquiries when the the $600 federal unemployment insurance that the jobless have received weekly since the start of April expires.

“I don’t think people have really been laid off yet, so to speak,” Graham said. “In the last several weeks, we have started seeing a little uptick with people making these inquiries. They’ve had plenty of time. They’ve been looking online, and they now realize that they might not have a job to go back to. So they’re starting to look toward alternate opportunities.”

That’s when they turn to SCORE for things like business plans, operating procedures and financing opportunities.

Jim Helfgott of Grand Strand SCORE said the local branch has seen between 30% to 40% more clients between March and June for all kinds of help — from understanding government loans to workforce questions and how to start a business.

“Our workshops that we hold on ‘How to Start a Business’ and clients coming in who want to start a business continue to be strong,” Helfgott said. “"And also, recently, a number of people buying businesses, which I thought was interesting. Even in these economic times, we’re still getting a number of people who are looking at buying existing businesses, particularly in the service sector where business continues to be strong because services still need to be provided.”

Graham said there isn’t one particular industry that she sees more than others, nor is there a certain kind of entrepreneur who is standing out.

“We had a lady (recently) who purchased the clients from a business that stopped doing what they were doing, and this is something she always wanted to do," Graham said. "People had dreams that weren’t fulfilled and now’s their time. We’re seeing niche markets. It’s a different kind of feel.”

Graham stressed the importance of seeing a business counselor before making the leap into owning a business.

“Most of them are going on emotion,” she said. “‘This is something I’ve always wanted to do and here’s my opportunity.’ And they’re maybe thinking based on how business was done in the past. But that way of doing business in the past may or may not move forward.

“We don’t want this dream to turn into a nightmare.”

For Rose, there has been no looking back. Her former employer called her to offer her the job back, but she declined. She’s an entrepreneur now.

“This is really a cool thing to happen out of all this,” Rose said. “I saved my money. I set it aside. The opportunity came and I just jumped on it.”

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