Is Now a Good Time to Start a Business?

Despite some positive signs, the economy remains on shaky ground. Our Board of Directors explains why that means big opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs.

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Ready for takeoff: Virgin founder Richard Branson says a recession can be a great time to start a business.The unemployment rate still stands at nearly 10 percent. The housing market continues to slide. The Dow has had more wild mood swings than the cast of Jersey Shore lately. People can actually explain what a "double-dip recession" is.

Which is exactly why now is a great time to start a business.

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But the reality is, historically, more businesses are started during and after recessions than during periods of prosperity. In fact, some of the most storied companies in U.S. history got their start during turbulent times -- the Walt Disney Company, Microsoft and Apple, just to name a few.

Now you must be asking why. Well, for starters, there's no better revenge after losing your job than starting your own successful company and becoming your own boss. And with millions of people out of work, more than a few are dusting off old business plans and finally putting them into action.

Perhaps more importantly, companies tend to hunker down during a recession -- meaning that entrepreneurs who know how to seize opportunity find themselves with cheaper real estate, an abundance of available talent and weakened competition. That's not to say starting a business is ever easy, and there are certainly reasons to remain cautious right now, but the right idea just might see the light of day at a time like this.

Still not convinced? We asked our Board of Directors -- some of whom got their own starts during recessions -- if now really is a good time to start a business. With a few exceptions, the chorus of "yes" was almost deafening. Here's what they had to say.

Richard Branson

Founder and President, Virgin Group

"I think now is a really good time to start a business because everything's half the price it was two years ago, and therefore the cost base is low. The big companies are struggling and that's the time for the new young entrepreneurs to get in and have a bite at the fat underbellies."

Bob Parsons

Founder and CEO, The Go Daddy Group

"Absolutely. In fact, any time is a good time to start a business -- but when the economy is in a recession, I think that's the best time. The reason? Your efforts will stand out during a recession."

Eric Ryan

Co-Founder and Chief Brand Architect, Method

"It's never good time and its never a bad time to start a business. It's unpredictable how long it will take an entrepreneur to get though the startup cycle, so regardless of the immediate macro (i.e. economic) or personal situation, it will change for better or worse. For example, if the economy is roaring when you start, by the time you have funding or finished writing your plan, there may be a recession, and vice-versa."

Lexy Funk

Co-Founder and CEO, Brooklyn Industries

"I would definitely start a new business now. The recession is an inflexion point. Consumers are thinking differently about the value/price proposition of products and services. There is room for new business models right now and for startups to grow quickly."

Clint Greenleaf

Founder and CEO, Greenleaf Book Group

"It's ALWAYS a good time to start a business -- if you have a good model. The economy isn't as important as what you're doing and if you can make money doing it. There are a ton of stories about companies that started in bust times and a ton of those that started in boom times too. Don't focus on the macro picture. If your business plan and model are solid, you'll do great."

Tate Chalk

Founder and CEO, Nfinity

"The answer is, it DEPENDS. Some aggressive wisdom dictates that the best time to start a business is in a down economy (less competition means an easier way to profitability). I tend to agree, but more than external reasons on whether or not to start a business, I believe that it's the idea and the people behind the idea that make all the difference. So, if you have a) a fantastic idea that is well thought out, b) a great business plan that takes into account that it will cost twice as much as you plan, twice as long as you plan and you will make half as much money as you plan, c) distribution in place before you go to production, then yes, it's a perfect time to start a business! Just remember, an idea never made anyone any money -- only perfect execution of that idea.

Julie Jumonville

Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, UpSpring Baby

"Hell yes it is a good time to start a business. Large companies are cutting services, product lines and personnel. Sure it is hard to get a bank loan, but if you can bootstrap your new venture, there is market share and loyalty to be gained from consumers. In addition, there is an abundance of very talented people who may be in between jobs or would prefer to trade watching The Young and the Restless to work for less in exchange for equity."

Warren Brown

Founder, CakeLove and Love Café

"It's a tough market for small-business retail. What you need is a property owner that views a lease as a partnership and creatively works with the tenant. Fixed costs that strangle cash flow will make it tough going for a startup."

Rob Adams

Director, Texas Venture Labs at the University of Texas

"Yes. At some point in the next year we should emerge from the economic ditch we're in -- and most of your potential competitors probably didn't survive. At the same time, spending will increase as customers invest, replenish and restock all the products and services they scrimped on for the last several years. Now is the time!"

Phil Town

Investor and Author of Rule #1 and Payback Time

"DANGER, DANGER. Consumer businesses are at war competing for fewer and fewer consumer dollars. Investors are getting lots of distressed businesses at discounts. Very tough time to attract angel capital, VC money, lenders and even factoring receivables. If you start a business now, you have to have the capital to get to cash flow on your own. Also, you should have worked in the industry -- and know it and your competition like you know your way home. And you better have a heck of a moat. Some form of protection against competition that gives you monopolistic pricing and margins. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, scoot on home to mama, child, because you aren't ready for this league."

Gary Whitehill

Founder, The Relentless Foundation and New York Entrepreneur Week

"Absolutely. Contrary to what most folks think, adverse and unstable times create incredible opportunities. Some of the most well-known brands that have now become household names were born in unfathomable recessions."

Jennifer Hill

Chairwoman, Astia NYC Advisory Board

"Absolutely! Basic overhead to launch a company continues to get cheaper, good labor is still plentiful and more community resources are available to advise and accelerate entrepreneurs. Companies with desirable products or services who generate revenue and organically grow during a recession are in excellent shape for the future -- especially when raising capital."

Steve Strauss

Columnist and Author of The Small Business Bible

"It's actually a very good time, both in the short run and the long run. Immediately, with the economy on the rebound, with people starting to spend more again, avenues for businesses are opening up. But even more broadly, this is the best time ever to be in business for yourself because there are simply so many amazing tools out there that can help you succeed -- computers, software, website, mobile phones -- it's an amazing time to be an entrepreneur."

Elizabeth Busch, Anne Frey-Mott and Beckie Jankiewicz

Co-Founders, The Event Studio

"Now is a GREAT time to start a business. With crisis comes re-evaluation and opens up the opportunity for new ways of thinking. For us, this means companies are reconsidering both what events can do for their business and how they structure the most efficient (cost and otherwise) team to get them done."

Jodie and Danielle Snyder

Co-Founders, DANNIJO

"We don't believe there is necessarily a bad time to start a business. You just need the right idea and to be able to execute it. We started our company at the start of the recession, and it worked in our favor."

Tags: Board of Directors, Bob Parsons, Busch Frey Mott Jankiewicz, business ideas, Clint Greenleaf, Eric Ryan, Gary Whitehill, Jennifer Hill, Jodie and Elle Snyder, Julie Jumonville, Lexy Funk, Phil Town, recession, recession business, Richard Branson, Rob Adams, running a business, starting a business, Steve Strauss, Tate Chalk, unique business ideas, Warren Brown

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