Illinois sees rise in entrepreneurs despite job losses, closed businesses

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Many businesses have closed during the pandemic, but despite that, there's been a rise in entrepreneurs.

Some people have turned job loss into an opportunity to explore their passions.

During the pandemic, a new wine shop popped up in Libertyville.

"My father was a small business owner [and] my grandfather was a small business owner," said Karl Braun, owners of Lago Enoteca. "It's always been in the back of my mind. I guess I didn't expect it to happen so soon."

Braun spent decades in import beer sales but a layoff last year kick-started his dream.

"Trying to select smaller boutique wines, things you won't see at the grocery stores," he said.

He opened Lago Enoteca in his hometown.

"It really inspired me to move forward with this plan that I've had for years," Braun added.

Whatever the reason, those motivated to branch out on their own during that pandemic are in good company.

In the last 12 months, new business applications are up 27% across the U.S. and up 61% in Illinois.

In the last 12 months, new business applications are up 27% across the U.S. and up 61% in Illinois.

In Bronzeville, one company is mixing up some treats for your skin.

"I use shea butter, olive oil, castor oil [and] coconut oil," said Quinn Mines with Soap Junkii.

They look good enough to eat but these faux confections are soaps.

"Why make it look like these delicacies? Because I like cake," Mines joked.

Mines started making natural soaps to treat her daughter's eczema, but then she got creative.

"I wanted a design that was all to my own so I came up with this swirl," Mines said.

With a layoff last year from a financial company, Mines went full-time with Soap Junkii, just in time for spring and summer fairs and a weekend pop-up in Lincoln Square with other women entrepreneurs for the rest of March.

"Everybody has hopes and dreams, but my dream is to make this business as big as it can get and to help people in the meantime who have the same skin condition as my daughter," she said.

Out of the pandemic, it seems we are seeing more people re-evaluating their lives and careers, and finding joy in being their own boss.
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