FORT WORTH, Texas — Organizations supporting small, local businesses saw an increase in people looking into starting such businesses during 2020, at the height of the pandemic. 

That number continues to grow today and experts are advising those new small business owners to make sure they reach out to organizations like SCORE Fort Worth to continue growing their businesses.

One of those new small business owners is Aiza Guillen, who now has her very own clothing boutique business called AYG, which operates from Dallas, selling select fashion pieces online and at local merchant markets. 

"Sometimes it still feels like a dream,” said Guillen about having her own business at the age of 24.

She is pursuing her passion for fashion after facing a difficult time entering the broadcasting industry as a 2020 college graduate.

“It just wasn’t the right timing, so I was like, this is the right time for me to start something for myself and that’s when I started AYG,” she said.

That is the pattern small business mentor Bob Siffermann said his organization has observed after the spring of 2020.

"People that were affected early on with the pandemic got laid off [and] basically decided maybe I’m gonna take things into my own hands and I’m gonna start my own business,” said Siffermann. 

More of those individuals began seeking guidance to start or continue growing a small business. 

According to Siffermann, SCORE Fort Worth observed a 50% increase in the number of workshops it had to do to educate small business owners and the number of attendees increased by 335%.

“So it has drastically exploded in a good way,” said the SCORE Fort Worth mentor. 

For Guillen, starting her business during a difficult time was not easy. She said there were many hurdles she had to overcome.

"Coronavirus pushed down all my clothes. All my manufacturers weren’t even making clothes because nobody was buying it, so that was one of my biggest challenges,” shared Guillen.

Now that her effort and sacrifice is paying off, she is glad she kept going.

“I am actually really surprised of how good my business is going,” she said.

However, there are some things that she is still figuring out along the way. Therefore she feels that having the opportunity to have a professional business mentor will be of great benefit to her.

"I think one of the hardest things for me at first, that I know other small businesses struggle with, is taxes,” she said.

The other thing Guillen noted small business owners like her might struggle with is learning how to pay themselves and reinvest after their earnings.

Siffermann said it is key for small business owners to have a mentor helping them navigate every situation they will come across, most of the times free of cost.

“Whether it’s score, whether it's somebody you went to school with, whether it's a professor, whether it's another small business, you should always have your network of mentors because you’re not alone,” added Siffermann.  

Especially since for some, it has become a preferable alternative to a traditional job. 

"They’re now saying this is something I wanna do for my livelihood moving forward,” shared Siffermann.

Guillen agreed, stating that for the meantime, she only has plans of investing all of her time and energy into her own business.

"I wouldn’t look into getting another job simply because this is my job and this is my life and I wanna make the best out of it,” she said.

Those interested in contacting SCORE Fort Worth can call their number (817) 871-6002. More information on the organization can be found on their website along with other chapters for cities they serve like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley.