Undeterred by pandemic and economy, young entrepreneurs forge ahead

ALBANY – At first glance, one could say that Ashleigh Lindsay suffered from poor timing when it came to the economy and her business aspirations.
She graduated from college in 2008 at the onset of the Great Recession. And she launched her digital marketing company, Digitally Grounded, in August 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But she looked on the bright side. She had recently given birth to her second child in March of this year and her maternity leave gave her time to evaluate and reflect on her long-term goals. And it made it easier for her to start her own business. “I had a lot of time to think,” she says.

By December 2021, Lindsay left her job as a web developer at WAMC to fully devote herself to her digital marketing firm creating and maintaining websites and search optimization services or the art/science of getting people to visit a specific website.

Andre Goodbee also went into business for himself about two and a half years ago, at the height or depths of the pandemic.
With experience as a union electrician, he opened Goodbee Controls and Electrical Services in early 2020.

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Both Goodbee, 43, and Lindsay, 37, also knew where to go for advice and help at the UpState New York Black Chamber of Commerce, which offers boot camp and networking for African American businesspeople.

“That was the best $600 I’ve ever spent,” Goodbee said of the boot camp, which covered a wide range of topics including marketing, budgeting, and that all-important networking.

“It has helped me align my goals and structure the company. It connected me to others,” Goodbee said.

“It’s really about building better relationships,” said Anthony Gaddy, co-founder and CEO of the UpState Chamber, of the training they provide.

The idea behind networking, he said, is to make potential clients aware that you’re out there and ready to get to work.

The boot camp also gave advice on where to look for clients and how to get credit.

“They gave us job tips and helped us get started in banks,” added David Anderson, who founded his construction company Anderson Construction in 2018.
“One of the biggest things I learned was how to create a business plan,” added Samaria Anderson, David’s wife who helps run the company. Capital, or the money to get started, is often the biggest obstacle that budding entrepreneurs of any kind face.

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Anderson also worked with the Community Loan Fund of the Capital, a nonprofit focused on providing loans to underrepresented aspiring businesspeople. They have a $22 million fund that can lend to nonprofits, small businesses owned by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or Colored), women, or people on low incomes.

However, their lending activity has declined over the past two years. You can lend up to $25,000 for a new small business and $50,000 if already established in some way. Nonprofit organizations can receive up to $500,000 per application, if approved.

The fund made 39 loans in 2019, with 11 loans in 2020 and 21 loans in 2021. Eight loans have been made so far this year.

Community Loan Fund community relations director Mike Martin says there may be a number of reasons for the decline, including the current labor shortage, high home prices and uncertainty about the economy.

The labor shortage is obvious. Even these 30- and 40-year-old business owners recognize a generational gap between their aspirations and those of people just out of high school or college.

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