Small businesses in North Dakota defy national trends

BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) – More than 98 percent of businesses in North Dakota are considered small businesses, according to data from the Small Business Administration.

While the pandemic has created economic challenges for many, some locally-owned establishments in the state have remained resilient.

Opening a small business is no small feat in a normal year, and doing so in a pandemic brings its own challenges.

The Donut Hole in Bismarck opened this past January, and owner Shannon Halvorson said she was excited to take on a new business venture regardless.

These doughnuts have been available at The Donut Hole’s Dickinson location for nearly 40 years. Halvorson purchased that location in March 2020, and expanded into Bismarck this year.

“I think a lot of people thought I was crazy, but when I get my mind set on something, I either have to prove myself right or wrong, so we just ran with it,” said Halvorson.

According to the North Dakota division of the Small Business Administration, many small businesses were able to open through the course of the pandemic, which isn’t the case in most states.

SBA data shows the number of self-employed people was down as much as 20 percent nationwide in April 2020, when compared to the year prior.

“For North Dakota at least, we seem to be bucking the trend with new business startups. Based on our office of advocacy’s research, it’s showing that there are more small businesses in North Dakota in 2021 than in 2020,” said Al Haut, district director for the Small Business Administration in North Dakota.

Haut said more than 1,200 new businesses opened in North Dakota between 2020 and 2021.

“That’s positive in any year, but especially in the year we’ve had,” said Haut.

However, owners like Halvorson are still dealing with challenges caused by COVID-19.

“Finding employees was probably the hardest. Getting employees who want to work and show up was our biggest battle,” said Halvorson.

Halvorson said her shop experienced a bit of a lull earlier this year, but now the outlook is sweet.

“It’s been going good, people love doughnuts. I always say, we have stress eaters. If the pandemic brought anything, it was stress eating,” said Halvorson.

The increase in sales has allowed The Donut Hole to expand their hours to be open seven days a week.

Haut said small businesses make up so much of North Dakota’s economy, it’s important to pay attention to trends in this sector.

Copyright 2021 KFYR. All rights reserved.