Local merchants turn pandemic hobbies into small businesses (includes audio interviews)

Patricia Pino spent the pandemic lockdown shrink-wrapping gift baskets for her friends and family.

Separated from her loved ones, she started a gift-basket hobby that became a small business.

Pino is an empty nester now that both of her children are grown; they moved out of the house two months before the lockdown. The extra time has given her the chance to practice her crafting skills.

“I’ve always been crafty,” said Pino. “I really enjoy making things for other people, and the pandemic gave me the time I needed to focus on making baskets and coming up with a proper business strategy.”

People in Miami are making money from the hobbies they picked up during the lockdown. While some people played video games, baked bread and did crossword puzzles, others turned their new hobbies into lucrative business deals.

Click here for Patricia Pino’s audio commentary 

She’s not the only one.

The U.S. Small Business Administration gets daily calls from people asking how to start their own small businesses. But they get more calls than applications because people don’t always go through with their plans.

Cecilia Taylor, an SBA representative, said the agency has been receiving a surprising number of communications from people seeking financial guidance for starting their own small businesses. Established owners are also seeking loans to try to stay afloat.

“We have been receiving a crazy amount of calls over the past two years from people requesting loans for their small businesses,” said Taylor.

Jordan Davide, 24, is a physical education teacher at Mater Academy in Cutler Bay. He recently launched a graphic design business called Davide Designs.

Click here for Jordan Davide’s audio commentary. 

He bought an iPad at the start of the pandemic and downloaded apps to stimulate and challenge his brain. Little did he know it would turn into a business designing logos.

“I never thought I’d have the time to explore other interests and discover a new passion,” he said. “I’ve been working nonstop since I was very young. The pandemic forced me to slow down and realize my full potential.” 

Kenia Sanchez and her business partner Lisset Guzamanthe own a small jewelry business that started when they began making beaded and colorful mask chains as an eccentric pandemic accessory. 

They recently partnered with several Miami boutiques to carry their products.

“After losing my job as a nanny to the pandemic, I really didn’t have a plan as to how I was going to continue to support myself,” said Sanchez. “I was watching an infomercial for jewelry kits in the middle of the night when I got the idea to start making my own.”

After months of perfecting their designs and planning a business strategy, Sanchez and Guzmanthe opened their own Etsy shop called The Jewel Bar Miami.

They also sell directly through Instagram.

The increasing number of small businesses led to a demand for federal SBA loans, especially when the agency started offering a COVID-19 relief program for financially challenged entrepreneurs.

Many small businesses that had been around since before the pandemic were forced to close their stores because of economic setbacks. However, these new entrepreneurs took a risk, and it paid off. 

“Even if my business doesn’t succeed, I’m still going to continue making my baskets because I love creating things for other people,” said Pino.     

Gabriela Gutierrez-Gallo is a senior at Florida International University majoring in communications with a concentration in journalism and a minor in social media and e-marketing. Her interests include film history, writing, and photography.