Starting a business during a pandemic might seem like a scary prospect, but Berkshire entrepreneurs are in a good place to do it.

January is the month of novelty. It’s when we turn the page to a new year (something we were all eager to do this year) and make promises to ourselves to do things new or differently. Some people use January as motivation to get in better shape, stick to a budget, quit smoking, etc. What about “new year, new business”? You could resolve to make 2021 the year you turn your dream into reality and launch the business you’ve been thinking about!

You certainly wouldn’t be alone. COVID-19 has wrought havoc in our economy, and although we won’t know the full damage for some years to come, we do know that many jobs have been lost, and many businesses have closed. We don’t have to like it (you would be hard-pressed to find someone who does), but we do need to acknowledge that our world is very different from what it was at this time last year. Many have sought to make lemonade out of these particular lemons by striking out on their own.

In November, The Wall Street Journal reported that applications for employer identification numbers (which entrepreneurs need to start a business) among the kinds of businesses that tend to employ more than just the founders (delineated to account for gig workers and contractors) were up 12 percent through mid-September, and at their highest numbers since 2007. The Economist, referring to Department of Commerce data, indicated that the number of “high-propensity business applications” (those most likely to result in the creation of a firm) reached their highest quarterly level ever this summer. Starting a business during a pandemic might seem like a scary prospect, but Berkshire entrepreneurs are in a good place to do it.

Here in the Berkshires, we have a strong and growing entrepreneurial support ecosystem to help entrepreneurs go from concept to launch. This group of overlapping organizations, programs, and experiences offers resources like education, technical assistance, networking, referrals, and help with funding, and the beauty is that most programs are free! Below are just a few of the organizations assisting entrepreneurs in the region. If you reach out to one, it is highly likely that you will be connected to one or more of the others before too long.

1Berkshire’s Economic Development Team offers free, confidential business consultations and entrepreneurial support programming. As the state-designated Regional Economic Development Organization, we work with entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses. We offer one-on-one business consultations to learn about your plans, offer our feedback, and help you make connections to local and statewide agencies and resources that can help you make your dream business a reality. Request a consultation with us here. We also offer free monthly Entrepreneurial Meetups (virtually, for now, but we’ll gather in person again when we can) that bring together entrepreneurs from across the region and beyond to catch up, network, and learn from the journey of a featured entrepreneur. Join us on January 25 at 9am for this month’s Entrepreneurial Meetup, featuring Canna Provisions CEO Meg Sanders; register here. Contact us at economicdev@1berkshire.com with questions!

Entrepreneurship For All (EforAll) is committed to accelerating economic and social impact through inclusive entrepreneurship. Founded in Lowell, Massachusetts in 2010, EforAll now has ten sites and launched in the Berkshires in Fall 2019. EforAll’s core program is a free intensive Business Accelerator program (offered twice a year), which takes a cohort of 10-15 entrepreneurs through immersive business training and mentorship and offers access to an extended professional network as well as the opportunity to win small grants. If you are interested in the accelerator, you’re in luck — the deadline to apply for the Spring 2021 accelerator (to be held virtually) is January 28 at 12 noon. EforAll runs Pitch Contests several times a year, monthly Deep Dives and other business support programs. Looking for inspiration? Tune in to EforAll’s upcoming “This Is A Great Time To Start A Business” panel discussion on Tuesday, January 26 at 5:30pm to hear from hardy souls who launched new ventures in 2020. Questions? Visit the website at www.eforall.org, call EforAll’s Program Manager Casey O’Donnell at 833-366-7255 or email at berkshire-county@eforall.org.