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Updated: January 24, 2022 editorial

Editorial: The year of the entrepreneur

Last year was quite the year for new business startups in Central Massachusetts. Through November, 2,567 businesses in the region incorporated for the first time in 2021, according to Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth data compiled by WBJ. That’s more than the 12-month totals of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Even if December’s numbers come in flat, the Central Massachusetts business community is looking at least a 10% year-over-year increase in new company starts in the last year.

The same trends are being seen across the state and the nation. The 11-month total statewide of 14,262 new business starts in 2021 also beats out the 12-month total of the previous four years. Through September 2021, nationally there were 1.4 million new businesses, the most of any year ever through the first three quarters, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data analyzed by Washington, D.C. advocacy organization Economic Innovation Group.

During a time period where businesses across all sectors are seeing a labor shortage, the fact more people are striking out on their own might seem to be counterintuitive, and it's certainly exacerbating those shortages. However, the surge in startups may very well be the result of shifting attitudes toward work and professional life brought on during the COVID pandemic, as more people are questioning their work-life balance and how rewarding their professional lives are. Regardless of the reason and the near-term impact on existing businesses, having more startups bringing new energy, ideas, and innovations will undoubtedly be a long-term win.

While a number of circumstances can lead to someone putting up their own shingle, at the heart of that decision is a passion for the work, an independent attitude, and an expertise in their field. Having these entrepreneurs turn their ideas into profit-driven companies will strengthen the economy.

An easy example of that passion put to good use is restaurant entrepreneur Son Vo, the subject of this edition’s Shop Talk on page 22. As the co-owner of three local restaurants, Vo has had a harder pandemic experience than most, facing shutdowns, staffing shortages, rising rents and food costs, and food scarcity. Yet, he’s not only kept his businesses afloat, Vo – a South High Community School graduate and Vietnamese immigrant – has bought the former Wexford House on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, to likely become the new home of his Pho Sure restaurant in Shrewsbury. Along with three of his sisters, the group is relying on their hard work and ability to save to find long-term stability for their eatery.

Entrepreneurs abound in our region, and if 2022 turns out to be anything like 2021, their numbers will continue to grow. As these startups find their footing, many will fall by the wayside, others will find viability, and the best will find sustainable success. We’re all awaiting the arrival of the post-pandemic economy. But many are not waiting for that sunny day to sail. They are launching their boats in still inclement weather, tacking to navigate their path.

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