Small Business Stories: Surviving and Thriving Amidst the Pandemic

Carolina Small Business Development Fund Research Report and Brief


ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic will leave an enduring mark on North Carolina’s small business community. Using a phenomenological framework, we conducted a series of in-depth semi-structured interviews with small business owners about how they addressed the pandemic’s challenges. Four central themes emerged that illustrate the complexity and nuance of small business resiliency. Our data suggest that to survive and thrive, entrepreneurs had to: (1) be adaptable and willing to pivot, (2) have an entrepreneurial spirit, (3) leverage their social capital, and (4) have the knowledge and ability to apply for aid programs.


WHY THIS MATTERS

Being able to manage low-probability but high-impact events is key to small business resiliency. The pandemic has shown a spotlight on this issue, but its importance has frequently emerged after other incidents like natural disasters. It was unknown whether strategies to build resiliency in other contexts would be effective during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Our research shows that general resiliency principles were important, but the pandemic also required new skills. In particular, entrepreneurs had to navigate a maze of aid programs that were sometimes highly targeted and often closed early due to overwhelming demand.

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SUGGESTED CITATION:

McCall, Jamie, Scott, Khaliid, and Bhatt, Urmi. 2021. “Small Business Stories:

Surviving and Thriving Amidst the Pandemic.” Carolina Small Business Development Fund. Raleigh, North Carolina. https://doi.org/10.46712/covid.stories.

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