April 12, 2021
By Emma Ferschweiler
While many businesses were forced to close as a result of the pandemic, for more than 4.4 million new companies it was just the start. 2020 saw a 26.9 percent increase in new businesses from 2019, the most dramatic increase in the past decade.
Among these aspiring entrepreneurs is Senior Julian Jensen-Lim who started a meat delivery company with his brother Henry Jensen-Lim and business partners Shiloh and Brooklyn Langston.
“Some small business owners that I know personally have told me in private that they used to say ‘Our business is recession proof.’ Now, they’ve learned ‘Our business is pandemic proof.’”
Jensen-Lim grew up in Jersey City, and along with being a student at McNair Academic High School, helps run his new business FedDirect. Starting in March of 2020 when Covid-19 first started to take effect, FedDirect was founded as a meat delivery service specializing in free range, grass fed and humanely raised cattle. Jensen-Lim said the inception of this business was to combat food scarcity in urban communities by providing nutritious, affordable and accessible food to areas such as Jersey City.
“I’d like to use the company to teach people why those things matter; sustainability matters, caring about our community matters, making sure the meat’s affordable matters, so this is a deeply personal thing. It’s not just about selling meat, but it’s really about the community we serve,” Jensen-Lim said.
Opening a new business during a pandemic has unique obstacles in addition to the usual troubles one would face. Mandatory quarantines across the country caused an economic shutdown disrupting any goods from being produced or used in nearly every industry.
Jensen-Lim said their initial plan was to go through a meat packer instead of a direct to consumer business model but had to adapt to a new system as the pandemic meat shortage arose and meat packers began to undercut suppliers.
“The most challenging aspects have been at least acclimating yourself to direct to consumer: doing everything online [and] doing everything virtually,” Jensen-Lim said. “We weren’t able to do a lot of in-person events… so taking advantage of the online presence, developing a store, developing social media all have been something that we needed a learning curve.”
History and economics teacher Mr. Newman said the odds of a successful new business are already stacked against entrepreneurs with around a 75 percent rate of failure. Newman said the pandemic adds the extra pressure of keeping employees on the job, maintaining safety protocol and worrying about potential Covid-19 outbreaks among staff.
“Businesses have to be more dynamic, flexible and innovative. The adaptations businesses have made have been incredibly inventive such as pizzerias making ‘make at home kits’… It’s not ideal, and profits are likely down, but many businesses have adapted and changed permanently,” Newman said.
Some industries have profited off the change Covid-19 brought most notably are home improvement, cleaning and delivery companies. Newman said these situations do not represent the majority of businesses.
“Unless you know people in these industries, you won’t ever hear a company celebrating success during the pandemic because business owners know they [are] incredibly lucky [to] have this success unlike so many others during this pandemic,” Newman said.
Newman said he would not start a business during the pandemic but can see more establishments be inclined to start as vaccinations are released and society returns back to ‘normal.’
“Some small business owners that I know personally have told me in private that they used to say ‘Our business is recession proof.’ Now, they’ve learned ‘Our business is pandemic proof’,” Newman said.
Senior Jennifer Kelly said she is interested in the prospects of business and may even do a business major in college.
“I feel no matter what you pursue, almost anything can correlate to business. Understanding business can also benefit you in the future when finding a full-time job because you will be familiarized with how a business works,” Kelly said.
Kelly said she has always dreamed of owning a boutique as well as being a fashion designer but does not think opening a new business would be the best plan right now.
“Business has been forced to adapt to a pandemic and it has made it harder to sustain smaller businesses. Business has been forced to do a lot of advertising virtually which sometimes makes it harder,” Kelly said.
Entrepreneurs are already known for being clever and resilient. The pandemic’s unique circumstances brings attention to other skills and issues business owners can learn from. Kelly said one must always be able to adapt to a fast paced market.
“To go into business, you have to be someone who is social. I believe it will require making a lot of connections with people and constantly dealing with others,” Kelly said. “Also, you have to be quick-witted and always prepared for change.”
Although the fear of failure may deter new businesses, these small enterprises are the backbone to the economy contributing 1.5 million jobs annually and accounting for 99.9 percent of all US businesses. America is still reeling from 20.6 million employment losses as a result of Covid-19, so entrepreneurs will play a pivotal role in bringing back economic prosperity.
Jensen-Lim said part of business is not only being methodical and hard working but willing to take risks. He said an innovation that FedDirect took on was transforming their business model into a service where a patron can sample meat then subscribe for boxes to be delivered with their choice of cuts, a sampling system new to the meat industry.
“Running a business is hard and you’re gonna have to dedicate a lot of your time to it… It’s not gonna be pretty a lot of the time,” Jensen-Lim said. “Every business will have a point where you feel like you want to quit, but before you start just know that it’s gonna be a hustle.”