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With economic uncertainty high, more people started new businesses. If that ain’t Michigan. 


Need to Know

  • Michigan saw unprecedented rates of entrepreneurship during the pandemic.
  • 170,000 new jobs in 9 months came from new small businesses in Michigan.
  • The state is offering various forms of economic aid that small businesses are eligible for. 

LANSING, Mich.—Even as tough times have lasted, entrepreneurial Michiganders have turned lemons into lemonade and dreams into bagel shops, record stores, and art galleries. If that ain’t Michigan, the state of Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Annie Edson Taylor (look her up, if you haven’t heard of her), then we don’t know what is. 

Like the undaunted innovators before them, more than 150,000 Michigan residents filed to open a business in 2021. That was a 60% bump from 2019, the year directly prior to the pandemic.

“The entrepreneurial spirit is thriving in Michigan,” said J.D. Collins, CEO of Michigan Small Business Development Center, a statewide resource for small businesses, in a press release. “Our consultants are experiencing a record number of start-up ventures and businesses in generational transition.”

Those small businesses weren’t just solo-mission side hobbies; some have become community landmarks. Businesses with 50 employees or less powered 170,000 new jobs in the first three quarters of the year, according to recent data released from the governor’s office.

Experts have suggested that turbulent economic conditions are the main reason people have faithfully leaped into pipe dreams—not out of desire, but desperation. As the status quo became more unstable, it didn’t seem as risky to take the plunge.

“It’s not terribly unusual for people to turn to entrepreneurship during uncertain economic times,” said Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, to MLive. “The conventional wisdom around that is the relative risk of starting a business gets lower because the overall risk that everybody faces in an uncertain economy is higher.”

Adrian Joseph, a Lansing native, teamed up with a friend to form Goodfellas Bakery during the pandemic. A foodie and fan of mafia movies, it seemed like the perfect time to take a risk, even as many other businesses in the capital city folded, Joseph said in a prior interview with The ‘Gander.

Now, Joseph is opening a second location in a commercial corridor just off Michigan State’s campus.

“I believe if you were fortunate enough to survive this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as a small business, there is truly nothing that can stop your success now,” Joseph wrote in a Lansing State Journal column.

Michigan has rolled out numerous programs designed to help small businesses get going and stay afloat. Details about ongoing programs can be found at the bottom of the governor’s press release.

“Small businesses form the backbone of Michigan’s economy and are the anchors of communities across the state. Through tough times, they’ve shown grit and innovation to continue getting things done for their customers and employees,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer.