Krista Guerrero’s resume tells the story of hard economic times, with a happy ending.
For years she enjoyed a successful career in marketing. Then the recession hit and she got laid off—twice.
“I had to do something else,” said Guerrero, now the owner of Kreative Design and Marketing. “I couldn’t deal with the layoffs anymore. I started freelancing from home and four years later, my business is growing.
“I’m one of the small business owners who lasted through the recession.”
Amidst home foreclosures and shuttered businesses, the unemployed are becoming entrepreneurs, and many of them attended the ’s Small Business Expo at the Wackford Complex Wednesday.
“There’s a huge number of entrepreneurs out there right now, who are finding that this is the right time to take business into their own hands and become their own boss,” Chamber Executive Director Angela Perry said. “They’ve lost their jobs and they’re finding new, innovative ways to make a living.”
The Chamber held its first Small Business Expo last year to provide a forum for local business owners to market their companies, network with other owners and learn about the ever-changing economy.
“Businesses in Elk Grove, like anywhere else, are suffering due to the economy,” Perry said. “But we’re doing what we can to give them ways to market and educate themselves.”
Roughly 500 people attended the Small Business Expo, according to Perry.
In addition to an economic update presented by keynote speaker Sanjay Varshney, Dean of the College of Business Administration at CSU Sacramento, the expo featured a vendor fair with booths representing 40 different companies.
“This is when we get out and let people know who we are,” said Ed Marlow, who started EM Enterprises, a green energy consulting firm, five months ago.
“I was in the industry for 35 years and I thought this would be more exciting and would really fill a need,” he said of the decision to start his own business.
Marlow wasn’t the only brand-new business owner at the expo.
Elk Grove electrician and contractor Frank Crain opened Handcraft Brewing, a beer and winemaking store on Survey Road, in February.
“I’ve been brewing my own beer for seven years now, and driving all the way up to Folsom for my supplies,” Crain said. “Since the economy’s been down, I’ve been looking for a good business to get into. There’s a definite trend in home brewing."
Small Business Development Center consultants John Taylor and Dave McDougall said they’ve seen a growing number of would-be entrepreneurs seeking advice. The non-profit center offers free, one-on-one help with business plans, marketing and other needs.
“People who lose their jobs want to become entrepreneurs and open their own businesses, but they have to be realistic, too,” Taylor said.
Lenders aren’t likely to provide financing without collateral, and many good ideas fail.
Still, McDougall said the business climate these days is “cautiously optimistic.”
“Those businesses that have survived to date are probably going to make it,” he said.
“There are 1,200 home-based businesses in Elk Grove that we know about,” Guerrero said. “A lot of people in my age bracket are freelancing and running businesses out of their homes instead of offices and saving a lot of money.”
Roughly 75 percent of the Chamber’s 550 members are small businesses with fewer than 25 employees, Perry said.