Tough Economy Spurs New Small Businesses

PJ Pronger, Small Business Development Center
PJ Pronger, Small Business Development Center

The fear of losing their jobs is sending record numbers of Amarillo residents to the Small Business Development Center.

It's all in hopes of starting their own business and controlling their own future.

In just the past month, 83 people in Potter County applied for a business license and 78 in Randall County.

"I was so scared. I didn't know what to do, I was kind of backed into a corner." So a few months ago, in hopes of a more solid, dependable future, Marci Richardson ( became The Fudge Lady. "If you're worried about being laid off or your worried about someone else trying to tell you hmm well I think you maybe don't fit the bill. It's that whole movie Office Space - trying to downsize and it won't happen to me."

It won't happen to Bo Salling either. He opened Crush Wine Bar and Deli six months ago, but says going out on his own doesn't come without sacrifices. "You have to get bills paid before you pay yourself and make sure you take care of the employees and the things that need to happen to keep your doors open before you can just say this money is mine."

These days, it seems more people are willing to make those sacrifices.

PJ Pronger at the Small Business Development Center says, "We've gotten nearly twelve months worth of activity in three months." Richardson says the proof is in those numbers. This poor economy is bringing out the best in people. "I think it's our American spirit coming out honestly because all the American people, they are natural entrepreneurs. They just so used to the daily you know, what everybody else does and I think a lot of people are realizing you know what break free of the rat race."

Pronger says it's that American spirit that is fueling people to come up with more ideas than he ever thought possible. "In the last thirty days I've probably seen more good business ideas than in recent memory."

Even if it is a good idea, starting your own business is risky. As a general rule of thumb only half of businesses survive longer than five years. The latest numbers show Amarillo's unemployment rate is 4%. That's up from 3.8% from October. The state unemployment rate is 5.7%.