Jennifer Sutton was burned out.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the 37-year-old advertising executive suddenly found herself juggling work and remote schooling for her two young children. Even when things eased at home with her kids returning to school, the pace of her job became increasingly intense.
The last straw came during her first business trip post-lockdown, when she broke down in her hotel room.
"I was just like, I can't do this anymore" recalled Sutton, who lives in Park City, Utah, with her husband and kids. "I'm burnt, I'm tired.
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"I don't want to feel this way with my family," she added.
In March of this year, she turned in her resignation and decided to open a juicery. She had worked in the hospitality industry through high school and college and had always toyed with going back into it again.
Guest Haus Juicery & Matcha Bar opened in Park City in September and it has already grown beyond juices, offering salads and coffee and selling wholesale to local businesses.
There have been challenges and there still is stress, but it is different stress, Sutton said.
"This is the happiest I've been in this sort of second phase, since I was fresh out of college in New York and kind of hitting a stride and single without kids," she said.
"It feels like, wow, I've really started to hit on my next chapter here," Sutton added. "But the letting go of that part is a little scary."
Sutton is one of millions of Americans who quit their jobs this year in the "Great Resignation." Many of them are turning to entrepreneurship as they reevaluate their lives.
The startup boom, which took off last year, hasn't shown signs of abating.
About 4.3 million new business applications were filed in 2020, almost 1 million more than in 2019, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. The trend remains high this year.
"A lot of people thought it might have been a blip when the pandemic disrupted life; [that] some entrepreneurs stepped in and built new businesses to meet their needs," said Luke Pardue, an economist at payroll and benefits provider Gusto, which services small and medium businesses.
"What we're seeing is that that trend of new business creation hasn't come down much at all."
Sectors have shifted somewhat. For instance, there has been new business creation in transportation and warehousing as supply chain issues crop up, he noted.
"That means that entrepreneurs are a little bit more nimble now in order to meet whatever needs in the economy arise," Pardue said.
To be sure, not all businesses are successful. About 20% fail within the first year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Isaac Medeiros hopes he isn't one of them. He began selling miniature Japanese swords, called katanas, out of his Los Angeles apartment last December as a side hustle.
At the time, the 24-year-old was working as a digital marketer, but said he was growing frustrated with his job. He was the sole marketer at the company after the chief marketing officer left and felt he wasn't being paid fairly.
"I didn't feel appreciated," Medeiros said.
Fortunately, his business took off quickly, so he quit his job in January. He's now averaging about $400,000 a month in sales, he said. He has expanded MiniKatana and also sells full-sized and foam swords, as well as keychains — all marketed online through social media.
Medeiros also moved into an office and warehouse space. He is making "well into six figures," up from his previous salary of $55,000 per year, he said.
"Being able to own your own time and being able to place a value on your time, I don't think you can trade that for anything in the world," Medeiros said.
"I feel incredible every day," he added. "I love my job."
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