Entrepreneurs in today's economy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Entrepreneurs in today's economy

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -- Many American workers are learning -- sometimes the hard way -- that the best way to find a new job when you lose your old one, is to do it yourself. 

Every morning in his suburban Washington apartment, Tommy Venable mixes up his special blend of salsa.  Three days a week, he packs it up and sells it at area farmer's markets.

Until October, he was a graphic designer for an e-mail marketing firm. Laid off, in the worst job market in decades. Now - this business is Tommy's full time job, and he loves it.

In Germantown Ohio, Tom Hodge found opportunity in General Motors' woes.  When his plant closed in December, he took a buyout, and started his own tool making business.

For these new entrepreneurs, the biggest challenges lie ahead.  After all, according to government figures, fewer than half of new businesses survive past the fourth year.

And yet, tough times like these have produced some of the biggest success stories.

Like the panic of 1873, when young Thomas Edison thought it might be a good time to set up a laboratory... Or the oil crisis of 1973, when Frederick Smith decided to start a delivery service called Federal Express.

In fact, according to one study, more than half the fortune 500 started during downturns.

And they didn't have resources like startupnation.com, or mentoring organizations like "Score", pairing entrepreneurs like Tom Hodge with experienced volunteers like Dick King.

"Now is the best time to start a business in recession because you get good prices," said King.  "You get good people because they're looking for work."

These new businesses are no substitute for traditional jobs. No healthcare or retirement plan yet, and most of the proceeds go right back into the business.

But it's one small benefit of an economic downturn: careers sliced and diced... but creating something completely new.

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