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Women and the pandemic: Moms become at home entrepreneurs

When the loneliness and stress of the pandemic became too much, Jennifer Pinkner turned her creativity into a business to help her family.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — These days Jennifer Pinkner spends a lot of time at home with her kids more than she ever imagined this time last year.

"Really all the rhythm of my life has changed," Pinkner said. "If you want to put me literally in a place I do not thrive, it would be all the constraints of this year."

Between homeschooling, which she vowed she'd never do, and isolating during the pandemic with her husband who's high risk, holding it all together for her family became too much.

"It's kind of like a drain on who you are," she said.

Loneliness eventually led to creativity.

Pinkner turned to her artwork for a release, painting houses and old signs around Tennessee that had special meaning to others.

"I thought, 'Well, let's do one of Chattanooga, let's do one of my hometown of Athens, Tennessee' so that kind of grew and people were interested," Pinkner said.

She found a printer, started an Etsy page and her business took off.

The number of female entrepreneurs like Pinkner is on the rise.

As of mid-December, more than 1.5 million new business applications were filed in the U.S., up 82% in the third quarter compared to a year ago, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Pinkner is finding flexibility in her new Etsy shop and another online business that's thriving too.

A year of hardship that is now opening new doors and new possibilities.

"That has brought me joy and connection with people even when I don't have that face-to-face connection," Pinkner said.

RESOURCES

Erica Biddix, Founder of the Knoxville-based Girl Boss Offices, LLC, has advice for women looking to pursue entrepreneurship or continue their current business ventures.

RELATED: Business empowers female entrepreneurs amid pandemic

How can you become an entrepreneur? 

I think a lot of women are becoming entrepreneurs right now by necessity. They've either lost their job and downsized. They can't continue the job they were doing because of homeschooling, a variety of reasons. Right now, I think everyone is seeing how possible entrepreneurship is, regardless of who you are, and it's been a means to an end. But at the end of the day, it has been a great change for women who have entered the entrepreneurship world. 

What are some things we should be focused on?

So first, is to tell people that you're doing it. I think we have a tendency to talk about others a lot, and we don't like to talk about ourselves. But if you're starting a business, you have to be out there. You have to put yourself and your business out there regularly. Whoever you're talking to at the grocery store, on social media, you have to tell folks who you are, not just what your business is.

How can you use social media to tell your story?

What people want to see on social media is not just what your business is, but who you are and how they can support you. That's really what we've seen is that a lot of the drive towards purchase local, purchase small, purchase female-owned is folks want to take that avenue, and they need to know that you're offering that for them. So while you may be offering a good or service that folks really like, they will gravitate towards you more as they hear your authentic story. So I always encourage female entrepreneurs not to hide from the camera, but to get in front of it, tell your story, tell why you're doing it in addition to what it is that you're offering.

Any other advice you'd have for women who are thinking about starting on this path? 

So there's a couple great resources in town. We've got the Women and Entrepreneurship group that is part of Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and we're a very active Facebook group, such a supportive community. And what I have found is the more that you support other female entrepreneurs, the faster and bigger your community will grow. So if you're out there supporting other female entrepreneurs, you're gonna see them coming to you and getting their community to support you as well. 

RELATED: Women and the pandemic: Knoxville mom leaves job to start homeschooling; many seek to re-enter workforce