Startups defying the downturn

Think you have what it takes to start a business during a recession? These 8 entrepreneurs are giving it a shot, with mixed results.

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Diversifying services
Diversifying services
Chris Denny (left) and Dan Sartin
Chris Denny
Co-founder, Sartin Denny Productions
Santa Rosa, Calif.
Launched: August 2008
Former job: Marketer

Sometimes timing is everything. I had thought about starting a business for a while. My business partner, Dan Sartin, and I wrote a business plan, and I finally made the decision to resign from my full time job in August. But before I could give notice, my company laid off a large group of employees.

I would have liked to have spent another 30 to 60 days at my job, but my last paycheck was $3,600, which was a huge help to move us forward. Sure, starting a business with that money was a risk, but apparently so was being employed. I decided I didn't want my future to be dependent on the decisions of others.

As an event company, we didn't start out glamorous. We were bootstrapping everything. But things were going great. Corporate clients used our services for company events and families used us for large functions. Our client portfolio was really growing. But when the market started to turn, our clients started to scale back. We both have backgrounds in marketing, so we decided to take on side projects for business owners, helping with branding, Web site design, and advertising.

This part of our business was intended to be just a supplemental income, but it wasn't long before we saw some serious growth and decided to launch a spin-off company, The Engine Is Red. People are looking to take advantage of this down economy by expanding their marketing. Because some of our clients can't pay us now, we've taken them on in a profit-sharing arrangement so that our businesses can grow together.

With unemployment rising, we see a lot of opportunity to partner with a large network of artists, copywriters and graphic designers who are both available and affordable these days. This recession has taught us that it's imperative to be proactive and optimistic. It's not just cash flow we're watching, but every business practice - we have to plan with purpose and strategy, even if it means altering our business to adapt to the economy.

By Emily Maltby, staff writer

NEXT: Balancing business, school and family
LAST UPDATE: Mar 12 2009 | 10:51 AM ET
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