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'We just had faith': 20+ entrepreneurs launched businesses during the ups and downs of the pandemic

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-15 21:14:56-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A group of entrepreneurs was recognized in Waldo on Wednesday afternoon for taking a leap of faith during a time of much uncertainty.

President of the Waldo Area Business Association, Angela Braun, says more than 20 businesses opened their doors in the neighborhood and persevered through the ups and downs of the pandemic.

During the time of the pandemic, the Small Business Administration distributed nearly $800 billion in Paycheck Protection Program loan assistance. Braun says as a small business owner herself, she knows it is no small feat to have survived.

“Coming out of the pandemic, I can tell you that it takes a lot of courage and a lot of grit to move forward with your dream,” Braun said. “And I think it speaks volumes to the kind of support that we have in our neighborhood and this Waldo community.”

According to a 2020 business survey done by the Kansas City Economic Development Corporation, 77% of businesses said the pandemic has had a negative effect — 53% said they expect over six months to fully recover. Owner of Pedego Electric Bikes, Dan Cain, says his initial financial losses are just now evening out.

“We just had faith that sooner or later it's going to come,” Cain said.

He opened his business on March 23, 2019 — five days before pandemic restrictions shut down his store. He waited for 10 days until he was able to open again with an exemption.

“Whether we were even going to be able to open up was the biggest scare,” Cain said. “First thing that came to my mind was, ‘Oh my god, what have I done?’”

His team never took federal loan assistance. In fact, he donated bikes to community charities hoping to create relationships in his new neighborhood.

After months of hard work and dedication, he is expecting to open his third bike shop location in Lenexa.

“It’s all about making relationships, and that's what makes a business successful,” Cain said.

A few blocks down on East Gregory Boulevard, Spencer Woodard started Geo’s Cheese on April 10. When his door opened, everything else had already closed.

“Like any business, it’s tough," Woodard said. "Luckily, we were in the food business. People were staying home more, they were eating at home a lot more, so grocery businesses were up."

Despite staying in business, he says maintaining safe business practices was not easy. Woodard says they struggled through the best they can, implementing masks and ramping up cleaning.

“The mask thing has been a big issue for all companies," Woodard said. "What do consumers expect? What do they do — do they go in? Do they stay six feet apart? As you can see, we’re a very small operation here. So some of those guidelines are hard to follow."