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'I think we can probably last to maybe February' | Home businesses giving the unemployed a lifeline

The long-term unemployed starting businesses at home in order to survive the pandemic.

WASHINGTON — If the home is where the heart lies, for Chris Schoen, it's also the place where the money resides.

"This is a soy wax blend, mostly soy, but all of it is vegetable-based,” said Chris Schoen as he prepared candles in his small, Northwest kitchen. "I think the biggest issue, I've reached so far is that I live in a studio apartment and I run my business out of a studio apartment."

His apartment is crammed with boxes and an assortment of supplies to accommodate his new candle business called "Urisdae Candle Company."

"Like the start of any business, it doesn't pay the bills yet and it won't for a while. You have to take time to grow it to that point. So, I'm still in the part of every candle I make is a joy,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, Schoen would be at work at the Washington Ballet. 

Schoen was the company's Patron Services Manager. But like so many others, once the pandemic got a hold of the economy, his employer had no choice but to let him go. The change in his employment status allowed additional time for his hobby of candle making and turn it into a business.

"I love making candles and taking the time … sitting with the wax,” he explained.

Schoen, like so many others, is getting creative to survive the pandemic. Although times are hard, they also present opportunities. Companies like Airbnb, Slack and Uber began during prior economic downturns.

Credit: WUSA 9

Daniel Hahndorf lives in northern Virginia. He's a chef by trade but recently did some accounting work for a local restaurant. He was also furloughed. Once at home, he got an idea. With more people cooking at home, why not sharpen knives for a price?

“I reached out to a neighborhood website for Fairlington Villages,” said Hahndorf. “People at home are using their knives more. I'm sitting here sharpening my knife, I'm thinking about all of these other people that need their knives sharpened."

He showed us his process for sharpening knives; using a stone and weather strap. Each back and forth with his supplies, bringing the knife to almost lethal sharpness. He hasn't made a lot of money but enough to save and pay for a few things.

Hahndorf admits he may need to sharpen more knives soon with his family's savings quickly dwindling.

“I think we could probably last to maybe February,” he explained.

So as both men wait for an opportunity that will pay the bills, they’ll continue to invest in their home businesses in hopes a hobby can keep them both financially secure.

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