Yes, You Can Start a Company in an Economic Downturn

Woman working on her laptop.

What do the companies WhatsApp, Uber, Instagram, Pinterest and Venmo have in common? They were all born out of America’s Great Recession that began in 2008. In fact, even the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) itself emerged in 2010 amid the massive economic downturn.

While a hit to the economy isn’t something to be celebrated, one thing is for certain: when challenges arise, so do opportunities to innovate. 

As we entered an unprecedented pandemic, many areas of life became ripe for innovation, like health technology, food production, logistics and coordination, and at-home social entertainment, according to Forbes. However, there’s no limit on which industries are due for an entrepreneurial upgrade — nor on when they’re due for it.

“There will never be a ‘best time’ to take your ideas to the next level,” says David Bartolomucci, co-founder and CEO of incubator company Roopairs. “Life doesn’t stop for you because you want to start a business.”

However, Charlotte Maumus, the co-founder and CEO of incubator company memwris, says that making sure you have a plan is a best practice, as diving into the startup world without one will hinder your success. 

That’s where the CIE comes in.

The CIE’s goal is to give the San Luis Obispo community the opportunity and support to turn their problem-solving ideas into viable companies from the get-go, rather than leaving people to navigate the startup journey alone. 

One of the ways the CIE does so is through its two-year startup incubator, a program that has helped launch several startups, ranging from an innovative fashion-tech company to the first multi-cue retrofit device that uses visual and auditory cues to help overcome freezing of gait. 

“Having support is essential to building confidence and keeping the momentum going,” says Haley Pavone, CEO and founder of graduated incubator startup Pashion Footwear. “The resources, mentors and funding that come along with the incubator program will propel your business to the next level.” 

While it may not seem ideal to launch a startup during an economic downturn or global pandemic, innovation and entrepreneurship have always been rooted in problem-solving and there is no better time for that than times of need like now.

“You could be 16, 20, 50, 85, employed, unemployed, in a family, single,” Pavone says of being an entrepreneur. “We can’t control when inspiration strikes, but we can control what we do with it.”

And no matter the circumstances, the CIE is prepared to help you take control when that inspiration does strike so that your ideas can help make a real-world impact now. Learn more about how we’ll do so at