Enterprising entrepreneurs start businesses during U.S. government shutdown

The entrepreneurial spirit is bringing hope — and income — to some U.S. government employees and contractors hit by the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history. The shutdown is affecting an estimated 800,000 federal employees (both furloughed and working without pay) and 4 million contractors who work for nine out of 15 federal agencies. We’re collecting and sharing an ever-growing list of affected workers who are making their own way in the midst of the furlough by starting businesses and launching side hustles.

Below is a list of businesses that have been started by furloughed government workers or their families, collected from social media and direct outreach. Have a business you’d like us to add to the list? Check out the instructions at the bottom of the post.

Related: Comprehensive list of resources for starting a business

The Furlough Cheesecake

Furlough Cheesecake Sisters

For the Maryland-based “furlough cheesecake sisters” — Jaqi Wright, who works for the U.S. Department of Justice, and Nikki Howard, who works for the FDA — entrepreneurial inspiration struck on New Year’s Day. That’s when Jaqi and her mom were enjoying sister Nikki’s homemade cheesecake and realized it was delicious enough to sell.

“Initially we were facing a bit of a dilemma having to get our bills paid,” Nikki said during an interview with CNN. “You get your furlough letter and they tell you to take your letter and you can use it with your creditors … but not so much. So we had our electric bill due; I have a college student who is going back to school in a couple weeks and that bill is due — so it’s a whole lotta pressure trying to figure that thing out. So when Jaqi and our mom said, ‘hey, we can do this,’ I was all ready to do it and we jumped right in.”

The sisters quickly registered a domain name with GoDaddy and set up a website using GoCentral website builder.

They are now selling their cheesecakes online for $29.98 each.

“It’s been a blessing, all the love and the outpouring that’s been coming in,” Nikki continued, “and we hope to encourage people during this time.”

Bella’s Sweet Scrubs

Bellas Sweet Scrubs
Photo: Bella’s Sweet Scrubs on Etsy

Who says only grownups can start businesses? Fifth-grader Bella Berrellez of Montgomery County, Maryland, launched a new business selling her handmade organic sugar body scrubs after the government shutdown resulted in her mother’s furlough from the FDA. “My mind was just going through like, how can I help, how can I contribute to my family?” Bella told her local news station. Bella started selling her handmade products on Etsy, launched a Twitter account to help promote her entrepreneurial shutdown effort, and even delivers her scrubs to local buyers for an extra 50 cents.

Bella is selling her body scrubs online for $7 each.

Share your story

Have you started a business or side hustle during the government shutdown? We’d love to hear your story! Please share on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag, #makeyourownway and we’ll check it out and get it on the list.


Originally published at Garage.