As a new small business owner, I love sharing my story and offering advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs. I began my entrepreneurial journey amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially, COVID-19 was devastating to my career. I worked as an actor in Los Angeles when the pandemic hit, and, like many others, my career became obsolete overnight.

When the pandemic put my acting career on hold, I began pursuing my passion for baking more seriously. My love for baking started in my mother’s kitchen when I was young, and with the encouragement of my family and friends, I turned this “hobby” into a business initiative. As the owner of a business launched during this challenging time, I can offer tips and advice for others who may be in similar situations.

1. Transform challenges into opportunities.

The idea for my new business, Strong Flour Bakes, had lived in my head for years — but didn’t truly take form until the middle of the global pandemic. I adapted to my change in circumstances by turning my love for baking into a successful small business. My family played an integral role in helping me turn this tumultuous time into a chance to pursue my dream. It’s important to find a strong support system of people who can encourage you during difficult times, help you to pivot when needed, and inspire you to succeed.

2. Work with a professional partner company.

Launching Strong Flour Bakes in the middle of a pandemic, I knew a website would be key to reaching consumers and getting the word out about my business. Creating a website seemed overwhelming at first as I’m not tech savvy, but I quickly learned that tech skills aren’t necessary if you work with a partner company. Using Yahoo Small Business’ Business Maker solution, I built a customizable website, established a domain name, and received a professional email addresses. The platform also recommended essential products for my business, like a point-of-sale system and Localworks. It’s important to work with a partner company that’s invested in your success and will provide you with tools that are easy to use. This will ultimately help you to focus on growing your business rather than managing back-end solutions on your own.

3. Build a business plan with resiliency in mind.

If you’re interested in starting your own business, you should work with a partner company to develop an operational business plan. I had always considered baking a hobby, but when it became my livelihood, the stakes were much higher. I established a business plan built on resiliency. Being resilient and able to remain flexible is crucial. Working with a partner company and small business advisors can help you with this. Set achievable goals, but don’t give up if you’re not reaching them at first. Building a small business from the ground up is a challenging and rewarding experience. It’s important to show yourself grace as you navigate a new endeavor.

4. Leverage your existing network and invest in your customers.

When I launched Strong Flour Bakes, I leveraged an existing connection at a local café and “pitched” the idea of offering breads and pastries from Strong Flour Bakes at the café. It worked. Now my baked goods are sold at the café’s different locations across Los Angeles. My advice to other aspiring small business owners is to unapologetically put yourself out there. You’ll never know unless you ask, and you’ll be surprised at how many people are rooting for your success.

5. Invest in your community.

Now — perhaps more than ever — I’ve come to appreciate and rely on my community. It’s important to be there for members of your community and develop mutually beneficial relationships. I’m able to use Strong Flour Bakes to help those around me and fundraise for local charities and other important causes. As my business grows and scales, I want to help support and benefit my community even more.

Beginning my entrepreneurial journey amid the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges, but with the support of those around me, I was able to transform those challenges into an incredible opportunity. It may not seem like a great time to start a new business, but if you have a passion or an idea for a business that aligns with market needs, you should consider pursuing it. Find a support system to help you remain resilient when times get difficult. Be prepared to pivot when necessary, remain flexible, and work with trusted partner companies to help you succeed.