To say it’s been a challenging 18+ months is stating the obvious. What’s important to note is that, in challenging times, entrepreneurs don’t give up. Instead, they use their intellect, gumption, and pivoting skills to lean into the challenge.

Here, nine Connecticut entrepreneurs share silver linings, discoveries, takeaways, and lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Time for Reflection

The Place 2 Be Owner Gina Luari:
“When you’re an entrepreneur and you’re working in your business, you’re focused on making each day successful. It’s hard to take yourself out of that environment to look at the business as a whole and figure out where you can make improvements. This is the time you have that thinking space to really reflect on the business.”

READ: Hartford Restaurant Embraces Opportunity During Challenging Times

Emerge Leadership Academy Founder Maureen Ross Gemme:
“[The pandemic ] allowed me to start marketing and doing the things I needed to do, including training online and virtual speaking. Those kinds of opportunities broadened me. If I had kept training for other people’s clients, I wouldn’t have developed the programs I have now, which led to a wonderful base of clients, because I wouldn’t have had time to develop new programming.

READ CT Entrepreneur Helps Others Become Effective, Empathetic Leaders

Giving Up Isn’t An Option

Parkville Market Director of Operations Chelsea Mouta:
“Every business, large or small, is finding a way to forge ahead and, for us, not opening was not an option.”
READ Parkville Market Is Open for Business

Roux Cajun Eatery Founder Stephanie Civitillo:
“Restaurants are high-risk—and they’re higher-risk during COVID-19, because so many are closing. I needed to have people around me who had the entrepreneurial mindset and believe you can still create new things, even now. If I didn’t have those people around me, I would’ve stopped, because there’s so much fear right now it can be overwhelming.”

READ CT Entrepreneur Brings Cajun Restaurant to Greater Hartford

Seeing Things In New Ways

4 Elements Direct Primary Care (4E DPC) Founder Dr. Vasanth Kainkaryam:
“One of the biggest things this pandemic has taught us as a society is a need for flexibility. After a while, I think all businesses try to create a particular template, they find what works, and they continue at it, believing that is their one recipe for success. But what the pandemic has taught me is that the recipe for success is actually being flexible, nimble, and constantly willing to learn and evolve with the environment. I’ve also learned to rethink whether and how my business needs to scale the way I originally planned.”

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Leading Culture Solutions CEO Andréa Hawkins:
“The pandemic has taught me that if something is a priority for a person or an organization, they’ll adjust and adapt to address that priority. I also saw how the pandemic didn’t stand in the way of so many companies beginning the challenging work to look at their culture and address long-standing equity issues.

“I also appreciate how the pandemic caused us all to pause and see each other’s humanity and commit to doing better. I’m glad we’re experiencing more empathy—the world is better because of it!”

READ CT Strategist, Futurist, And Culturepreneur Andréa Hawkins

Untapped Potential, Inc. Founder Candace Freedenberg

“One silver lining from the pandemic was seeing how business leaders became acutely aware of the double-duty women in the workplace bear when carrying the load of home and childcare for their families.

“As a professional who successfully telecommuted as early as 1994, I was surprised to see how unavailable this option was when I started Untapped Potential in 2015. The urgent stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic forced businesses to finally migrate from the 9-to-5 industrial age work mode to one that’s achievable in the  ‘information-age.’ We have yet to see how this change sticks long term but it may let caregivers better manage at-home and work responsibilities, keeping women from having to ‘opt-out’ cold turkey.”

READ Untapped Potential Continues to Create Opportunity in CT

Opportunity & Awakening

Nerac Inc. President Kevin Bouley:
“Hidden inside every challenge or problem is an opportunity waiting to be discovered. The bigger the challenge, the greater the opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic is a catalyst for innovation and change.

“COVID required the ‘virtualization’ of so many things, including XcellR8. I wondered whether the palpable sense of energy generated sitting shoulder to shoulder around the conference room table would survive the transition to a Zoom videoconference. It didn’t merely survive, it thrived in a virtual setting. Going virtual extended XcellR8’s reach to a larger network of engaged participants, both XcellR8 mentor members and the early-stage ventures they support. Adapt and grow!”

READ Entrepreneurship and Innovation Thriving in Northeast Connecticut

Velia’s Virtual Solutions LLC Founder/Chief Executive Officer Tashalee Cruz:
“The pandemic has been the reminder I needed to really invest in my business and grow it to its fullest potential. The pandemic has provided many entrepreneurs with the chance they needed to take that leap of faith and make it work to provide an income for themselves and their families. While it’s been tragic with so much death and suffering, it’s stirred up an entrepreneurial awakening where people have gotten the chance to change their narratives.”

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