Earn Entrepreneurship

I started a business during coronavirus and — fingers crossed — it’s going well

Manda Goldberg  |  May 4, 2020

They say timing is everything.  Could it be that this upside-down world is presenting just the opportunity you’ve been waiting for?

It took nearly 3 years (and a couple of stops and starts) but I had finally landed my dream job as a marketing advisor. I was working for Compass, the real estate brokerage firm that was gobbling up mom and pop brokers across the country. My role was to help local agents brand and advertise themselves, to help them stand out above the digital fray. I was working with an unparalleled team and, yes, my benefits were top notch.

Fast forward three days into the Coronavirus lockdown and there I was, along with 30 other New York regional employees, on a 12:15pm Zoom call.  Due to COVID-19, we were all laid off. 

Along with 30+ million unemployed Americans, I experienced a full range of emotions — anxiety, sadness, anger, fear, shock, a few others, and then I had a thought. I was not new to the world of online work. For the past year, fifty percent (if not more) of my job was already digital. Over the last few weeks, the rest of the world had been forced to go virtual. I knew there was a good chance I could use my social media skills to help them catch up. 

Minutes later, I called up my friend Jessica Scarcella from college and pitched her my new idea. She signed on immediately and we were off. Within weeks, almost entirely over FaceTime, Jess and I started a digital media company called Cella | Gold. We designed a logo, launched a website and … drumroll please… brought on three clients for whom we are implementing social media strategies and web design services. We create their content calendars, branded graphics, video content and more, so they can spend their time focusing on what matters most to them, the core of their business.  

Needless to say, I got a crash course in how to start a business during these difficult times, and I’m so excited to see where this takes me! If you’re thinking about hanging out a shingle, heres’ my advice.

Go fast, but not too fast. 

As you may have noticed, the name of our firm combines half of my last name with half of hers. But it took us 72 hours and hundreds of ideas to get there. We started by throwing all of our ideas into a Google doc, then separating those into categories.  They included the streets we lived on in college, our favorite Fleetwood Mac songs (Coddington Social, Seven Wonders Media, even Indie Influence). We wanted the name to have meaning, but more importantly to be sure the URL and social handles were available and the name was available through the US trademark database. Sometimes, it turns out, the best names are the ones given to you at birth. Coming up with the logo was simpler. We just went with a font we fell in love with and spacing that was clean, simple and timeless. Done. 

Cultivate your old network. 

A week after being laid off I received an email from a former colleague.   She was making an introduction to one of her agents who was looking for freelance social media management. That was how we landed our first prospective client.  It’s key to let former colleagues (and just about everyone else) know about your new venture. All three of our current clients and all of our prospective ones have come in via referrals or word of mouth. 

Be willing to pivot quickly. 

Since starting the business we also found a need for content creation, mainly video, so we’re adapting our offerings as we go.  We know that nothing is set in stone, and change is inevitable, so we’re willing to go with it.

Don’t be afraid of the logistics.   

We formed an LLC because it was a) simple and b) offered liability protection. Our personal assets are protected by limiting the liability to our initial investment. There are also some helpful tax advantages — i.e. no duplication of tax filings and tax payments. We placed our order on a Wednesday through a company called IncFile.com, and by Thursday afternoon our LLC was filed (note: it can take up to 5 business days). IncFile then connected us with Bank of America so we could open a small business checking account (essential for both tax purposes and keeping track of your business expenses without commingling them with your personal ones).  After a few phone calls, a $100 deposit and a credit check, we were in business! 

Don’t do it alone.

I would not be writing this piece if it weren’t for Jess. Choosing a partner you know you work well with and can trust is imperative. Jess and I graduated from Ithaca College together, and worked together at the same company our first year out of school. Our strengths complement one another. She’s a creative and design whiz, while I’ve got more of a strategic and communications background. Having a partner has also been great for accountability, as we keep each other on our game as we know how important this company is to one another. It has helped tremendously to FaceTime everyday and have someone to talk things out and brainstorm with. 

This isn’t the time to ask why — it’s the time to ask why not. 

Although I’ve always wanted to start my own business, self-quarantine — and let’s face it, getting fired — was the incentive I needed. The thought of being locked in my house, with nothing to do but procrastibake and learn tik tok dances (though I’m not judging if that’s your jam) wasn’t going to work for me. Even if this doesn’t turn out to be my long-term plan, I’ll come out of coronavirus with a stronger resume, better contacts and a great story to tell at my next job interview. But I have to say, I don’t think that’s the way it’s going to go. I suspect I’ve found my silver… or rather, Cella Gold… lining.  

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