Woman in a blue jacket speaking on stage
Woman in a blue jacket speaking on stage
Amanda DoAmaral

No one knows how many of the 24 million small businesses in the United States have closed, but the number, when tallied, is likely to surpass one million. But some tiny companies have turned a corner and head into 2021 shaken and changed, but alive. Times of E reached out to incubators across the United States, who connected us to entrepreneurs whose companies survived. Ten entrepreneurs shared their stories with us. You can find others in the series at Rest of the US. Thanks to gener8tor, Arlee Community Development Corp., E For All, On Deck and TK.

For some small companies, pivoting wasn’t necessary because the pandemic created scenarios that propelled their business. Take Fiveable, a Milwaukee-based company which has been building its library of online learning content since 2018. The pandemic left students and teachers navigating how to learn and teach from home. The virtual classrooms– and the challenges that came with it — was good news for Fiveable. Almost 3 million students used its platform in 2020, which is 8 times the number in 2019, according to a blog post.

“We had been imagining and building for that future (remote learning), but it showed up overnight and far sooner than we had expected,” Fiveable’s founder Amanda DoAmaral wrote. “It accelerated all of our plans to reimagine online learning.”

DoAmaral, a former high school history teacher, founded Fiveable after her former students sought her help for Advanced Placement Tests. The site offers AP support with free study guides and livestreams. It also creates connections between its users through interactive activities, such as its AP Olympics event, where students studied on teams for prizes. 

The company raised $3.5 million from new investors in 2020 and grew its team from four to 17 full-time employees. You can read more about Fiveable here.

“The hardest part of 2020 has been the dichotomy of global crises while simultaneously experiencing professional success,” DoAmaral wrote. “I’ll be the first to say that we did not have a difficult 2020. We didn’t have to make the kinds of decisions that many did and I’m incredibly thankful for that. But our team experienced the rollercoaster of racial justice protests, the Presidential election and the global pandemic, and we struggled with our mental health through that.”

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This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.