Meet Kitsap’s ‘reluctant entrepreneur’

By Rachel Pritchett

Stuart Walton calls the people he’s seeing now “reluctant entrepreneurs.”
Walton is the Kitsap program manager for Washington Community Alliance for Self-Help, which helps novices start new businesses.
This new breed is made up mostly of women ages 35 to 45.
They’ve been laid off from stable jobs they’ve had for years with big employers, thanks to the recession.
Most are single and now forced to work part-time for a fraction of the money they were earning before. They need money to finish raising their kids, and also to sustain their previous lifestyle.
Down but not out, they haven’t entirely given up on the desire to do something that actually brings a measure of contentment.
“They all want that satisfaction,” Walton said.
Take reluctant entrepreneur “Sarah.”
For years in human resources for a large company in Kitsap County, she was pulling down $20 an hour. But she lost her job as the company streamlined.
With no spouse and with two sons, she needed money. All she could find was a part-time job at $13.60 an hour. She took it because she had to.
She sought advice from Walton.
She had several choices, he told her.
She could marry. She could get a second part-time job. She could continuing looking for another full-time job.
Or she could start her own business.
“She is reluctant; it is a big, scary step for these people,” Walton said.
Chances are Sarah and the people like her that Walton is seeing so much of now will go the small-business route — reluctantly.
There’s the huge investment of time, capital and risk at life’s most vulnerable moment.
And then there’s the “tired” factor, where people who’ve been working for some time, now, find it harder to start all over again.
It’s not supposed to be like this.
Sarah sighed and signed up for Walton’s entrepreneurial-training classes.
He guesses she might choose to build a business that is sewing- or knitting-related, including teaching classes. It’s that yearning for satisfaction.
In several years, if it’s successful, she could have three or four employees and be grossing $100,000.
And maybe someday Sarah’s reluctance and fear will have given way to success in a place she’d never dreamed she’d be.
She isn’t alone.
The ranks of small businesses in Kitsap County has grown 3.6 percent over the past year. As of Aug. 1, there were 15,297 active businesses here. That time a year ago there were 14,768, says Mike Gowrylow, spokesman for the Washington Department of Revenue.

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