No one knows how many of the 24 million small businesses in the United States have closed, but the number, when tallied, is likely to surpass one million. But some tiny companies have turned a corner and head into 2021 shaken and changed, but alive. Times of E reached out to incubators across the United States, who connected us to entrepreneurs whose companies survived. Ten entrepreneurs shared their stories with us. You can find others in the series at Rest of the US. Thanks to gener8tor, Arlee Community Development Corp., E For All and Arrowhead.
As the market for scuba diving instruction and travelling practically vanished with the pandemic, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, scuba instructor Laurie Rock had to close her diving school. She knew she had to do something because without a revenue stream from her scuba business, Action Sports and Travel, she had no income.
So, she shifted the focus of the business and began using her equipment and knowledge to reopen as a business to manage invasive underwater weeds in lakes and other bodies of water in the community. She calls it “underwater gardening” and provided this service under the name Aquatic Roots.
Rock acquired the scuba store and center in 2014 from her parents, who were avid divers in the community themselves and opened the store in 1983. She’s been teaching scuba for over 20 years and also has been part of diver-focused weed management for almost as long, she wrote.
She was also able to shift some of her classes online. She offered ecology classes virtually as well as other programs that don’t require in-person or in-water training. By making these shifts and adding Aquatic Roots, Rock said she was almost able to recover the revenue she lost.
Action Sports and Travel received a PPP loan and City of Pittsfield COVID-19 Small Business Recovery grants, which allowed her to re-hire her summer staff and add a year-round staffer. She also received a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan, which helped her to keep her business open. During the pandemic, she’s had two part-time employees.
“I can not emphasize how much support and encouragement I received from family, friends, the diving community, and my staff,” Rock wrote. “Together they helped me to find the courage and determination to turn 2020 into a year my business would survive.”
Rock plans to turn Aquatic Roots into a permanent branch of Action Sports and Travel, she said. Though, scuba education will remain the center of the business.
This story and others on Times of E are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.