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New businesses surge amid pandemic recovery

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Amanda Hence has really never had a hobby.

“Which is so weird, I guess,” she said. “I'm 35 years old and never really had a hobby to call my own.”

So, when the pandemic hit and she wasn’t able to wait tables, as she’d been doing, she decided to take a step back, reevaluate her goals, and hopefully pick up a hobby in the process.

“It was really refreshing to just kind of take a step back and look at your life and say, ‘is this what I want to do for the next so many years,’” said Hence.

That’s when she began making candles. Now, when you ask her what she does she says, “I make all-natural soy candles in coffee mugs and teacups.”

Hence launched Decaf Candles just a few months ago and even quit her full-time serving job to pursue her hobby-turned-career.

Stories like Hence’s aren’t hard to come by this year. In fact, Onondaga County, where her company is set up, is seeing a surge in new businesses.

As of July 23, 2021, 1,242 new business certificates were filed with the Onondaga County Clerk this year. That’s over two times as many as this time last year and even surpasses the year-to-date numbers for 2019 and 2018. Local sales tax for this past quarter has also surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

Dr. John Torrens, a professor of entrepreneurial practice at Syracuse University, said he’s not surprised that people have wanted to start businesses amid the pandemic.

“The pandemic created problems for people and entrepreneurs solve problems,” he said.

Torrens has many adages for the entrepreneurial world, one of his favorites being “chaos creates opportunity.”

He said many people saw this devastating year and a half as an opportunity to prioritize themselves.

“I think that's super attractive to people who look out and say, ‘wow, you know, there's a black swan event that I have nothing to do with no control over, that could devastate my way of life, and I want to be in more control,” he said.

And with Hence, he was spot on.

“It's nice to finally take a step back and realize what's truly important,” said Hence.

Madison Ruffo received a Master’s Degree from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she specialized in audio and health/science reporting. Madison has extensively covered the environment, local politics, public health, and business. When she’s not reporting, you can find Madison reading, hiking, and spending time with her family and friends.