When Recession Equals Opportunity 5 women launched their long-held dream of starting a business by finding gaps in the marketplace and filling them, despite the recession. Follow the 4 tips here to do the same.

By Lisa Druxman

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's a sad fact that pretty much everybody knows people who have lost their jobs in this recession. But sometimes, hard times can turn into opportunity. An article in USA Today states that a recession is a great time to start a business. Did you know that Trader Joe's, Disney and Hewlett-Packard started during recessions? But it's not just big companies arising in troubled times. Many mompreneurs view the recession as an opportunity to launch their businesses. Starting a business at any time is hard work. But these economic times create a fierce desire for success. Many moms are rethinking their careers after being let go or thinking about what career move works best for their families, and more than a few are choosing to chase their dreams rather than be at the mercy of an employer. After losing their jobs, what do they have to lose?

Certified meeting planner Cynthia Capizzo has worked in the meeting and event planning business for 15 years. She's always been an employee and gave 100 percent to whatever task was ahead of her. In the back of her head, she always wondered why she didn't work for herself. But being a wife and mom, it didn't seem practical to leave a steady job to become an entrepreneur. That was, until a golden handshake turned into a golden opportunity. Capizzo was recently laid off when the company she worked for was slated to close due to the poor economy. While at first concerned about her future, Capizzo decided it was time to launch her dream. She had nothing to lose. She is now launching CC Meetings & Events, the business she always dreamed of. In Capizzo's business, she doesn't need lots of startup capital. She just needs a great network of contacts and venues, which she's built over the span of her career. Because she works from home and isn't carrying a team of employees, she can keep prices down for customers but still offer them the same great service. While Capizzo is nervous about the future, she's excited to launch her new company and views the current economic milieu as a great opportunity to do so in her particular market.

It's not ideal to lose your job when you're five months pregnant, especially when you've been with the company for almost 18 years. But that's exactly what happened to Corinne McDermott. Her company let her go recently during a company takeover. McDermott used her severance to implement a backup plan: She created www.havebabywilltravel.com, a website for moms who love to travel. She already had the idea but used her new time off to focus on the business and further develop the site.

Julia Tanen started her company in 2001 because she was laid off. She was four months pregnant, and two of her clients asked if they could come with her wherever she went next. That was the start of The Tanen Group, a print and broadcast PR firm. Over the next year, Tanen brought on a few new clients and slowly grew the company. Now--despite the recession--Tanen is starting a new partnership with a firm in the UK to provide global PR services.

Jennifer Smith and her partner Christy Perez spent more than a year developing a great business idea that wasn't able to take off because of the failing economy, so they put the idea on the shelf with the intention of dusting it off when things improved. Both of their husbands had been able to support their families and allow both women to be stay-at-home moms. But when their husbands took major pay cuts to keep their jobs, Smith and Perez realized it was time to step up and bring in some supplemental income. They decided to start their business during their down time on a smaller scale using another business's space. Their business, Kids Learn And Play, provides a sort of "mom's morning out" four days a week from 9 a.m. to noon. During that time, kids ages three to five participate in fun games, physical activities, crafts, music and dance while they learn about nutrition, manners and foreign language. Because they couldn't afford their own space, they rented one from a gymnastics studio that needed some extra money. They've been able to help out in their community, improve the health and minds of some great kids, give parents an affordable option to full-time daycare and make the extra money their families need.

Jennifer Parris started Celebrity Parents Magazineafter losing her job. Colleen Leader started LooseThreadStitchers.comwhen her family needed another income. My list goes on and on. These moms decided to stop being at the mercy of an employer and pursue their dreams.

If you're considering taking advantage of these economic times and embarking on your way to becoming an entrepreneur, stay focused with these steps:

  • Create your vision for your business.
  • Create your business plan. Make sure that there's a need and that you can fill it and make money.
  • Create a budget and make sure you can afford to launch your company. The company will require a financial investment, and you'll have to learn to live without steady income.
  • Create an action plan and go for it. Don't be another person with an idea that never comes to pass.

Remember, challenging times for some mean opportunities for others. While some in the franchise industry have experienced slowing because franchisees can't find funding, those that can provide a low-cost way in are progressing full speed ahead. Change your mindset and push your fear aside. In today's market, you can find amazing deals on office space, amazing women looking for employment and a society that wants to believe in something. Ask yourself how you can create opportunity where others see none.

Wavy Line

Lisa Druxman is Entrepreneur.com's "Mompreneur" columnist and the founder and CEO of fitness franchise Stroller Strides. Druxman is also a nationally recognized speaker and author, and is considered an expert in the field of fitness, particularly pre- and postnatal fitness. She hosts a free monthly webinar during which she answers questions from fellow mompreneurs. If you are interested in participating, contact her at lisa@strollerstrides.com.

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