By Carla Mozee
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Donna McGuire
decided to make something good out of the horrific events of Sept.
The New York City Web developer watched
as her town plunged into emotional and economic chaos the morning of
Sept. 11 as hijacked jetliners slammed into the landmark twin towers
of the World Trade Center.
In the fallout, she became one of the
area's 100,000 workers who lost their jobs.
In trying to figure out her next move,
McGuire reexamined her priorities and resolved to combine her need
to work with her desire to help others whose lives had been turned
So she and a former colleague started
their own company -- a Web site design and marketing firm called
"I saw a lot of people folding up. We had
a lot of expertise and knowledge. We thought, 'Why don't we help
small to mid-size businesses,"' said McGuire.
McGuire was not alone in choosing to
launch a business after Sept. 11 in a less-than-booming economy.
Many other people have since started small companies -- computer and
software development firms, restaurants, even services for emotional
"Sept. 11 was one of those events where
people found themselves rethinking their priorities and reexamining
what they wanted out of their lives," said John Challenger, chief
executive of the Chicago-based employment outsourcing firm,
Challenger, Gray and Christmas.
A FRESH START
A recent report released by Challenger's
company shows that the number of out-of-work managers and executives
under the age of 40 who are starting their own businesses has risen
in each quarter since Sept. 11.
In the first quarter of 2002, 36 percent
of 3,000 unemployed respondents said they had started their own
companies. The survey, conducted quarterly, indicates that figure is
up from 25 percent in the fourth quarter of 2001 and up from 6
percent in the third quarter of 2001.
After the attacks, many people created
work for themselves with the help of the Small Business
Administration. The SBA issued $340 million in loans as a reserve of
funds for start-ups and small companies in New York that were
physically or economically hurt by the attacks of Sept. 11.
Others, like McGuire, are using their
savings to begin new lives as entrepreneurs. She said her company,
in spite of the circumstances surrounding its origin, is satisfying
her career and community assistance goals.
"I've talked to people who lost loved
ones, lost businesses. I keep telling them, 'We could either roll
over and play dead and let it take us on, or take it on and do
something you really want to do, service-wise,"' she said.
Jennifer Kushell, head of the Young
Entrepreneurs Network in Marina Del Rey, California, said Sept. 11
and its emotional aftermath also fostered a new business trend:
firms that offer so-called "grieving products."
"We had a woman who contacted us about
providing gift baskets and resources for parents who have lost
children. Another is helping young people who are cancer survivors
or struggling with cancer. I think people are looking to improve our
communication, our connectivity," she said.
SECOND TIME AROUND
Not all new companies cropping up are
being run by entrepreneurial novices. Kushell said many people who
opted for the security of traditional office jobs after the dot-com
crash and economic slowdown are poking their heads back out to
consider new ventures.
"There are a lot of entrepreneurs in
Corporate America who don't belong there, and they are starting to
get very antsy," said Kushell.
While some people are choosing to return
to their entrepreneurial roots, others are being pushed back to
New Yorker Bill Weber spent months
looking for work after being laid off from his publishing job. He
reached his breaking point while standing on line at a jobs fair in
Madison Square Garden.
"There were people around and around the
block. I thought, 'This is ridiculous. I'm management level. They
aren't going to hire me to be a salesman for copiers. So I'm going
to have to follow my opportunity and do it myself,"' he
Years ago, Weber had his own magazine
about parenting. So he decided to give self-publishing another try
by launching a trade directory for Internet companies looking for
resources such as Web designers, programmers and server providers.
The directory will begin operating in September.
Weber said it is not easy to start a
magazine during an advertising dry spell. But he feels it's the best
and only way for him to make ends meet.
"The odds against starting a publication
are horrible. But I did it before and I was successful for a long
time," he said.
A DREAM COME TRUE
Sept. 11 brought an unexpected and
bittersweet opportunity to Barry Gribbon, a 38-year-old former
television production executive living in Los Angeles.
In early September, he went on a business
trip and his wife Jennifer decided to go along. They woke up on the
morning of the 11th to images of destruction being played out on
their television set.
"We were staying at a bed and breakfast
and watching television, and I said, 'Our world is going to change.'
I had no idea what that meant at the time, but now we know," Gribbon
Two months later, already hurting from
the advertising slump, his company laid Gribbon off. But it also
gave him two television projects -- and the accompanying budgets --
as a springboard to launch his own production firm.
Today, he and Jennifer run their own
production house called Homerun Entertainment in Beverly Hills. They
produce shows for the Food Network, among other television
Jennifer said they had always talked
about starting a business together, but it took the forces of a
terrible tragedy, a struggling economy and a renewed sense of
purpose to get them off the ground.
"I'm not so sure that that decision would
have been made if 9/11 had not happened. But I can say it certainly
changed our passion and our direction as people," she said.
"We're thrilled, " said Barry of owning
his own firm. "This rocks. This is totally cool."